Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (71)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

71. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 111 of 5 March 2019, the number of grants made versus loans, that is, quantity and monetary value regarding loans; the amount of interest applied; and the main receivers of the climate finance. [12163/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Addressing climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our generation. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is helping to address the most pressing climate change challenges through its international development policy and programming.

Ireland’s international climate finance is provided to partner countries in grant form only. The Irish Government does not issue climate finance through loans.

The main receivers of Ireland’s climate finance are Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States - countries and regions most affected by climate change and which need urgent support to address the impacts of climate change.

Ireland’s new policy for international development, A Better World, launched by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development on 28th February maintains a strong focus on addressing climate change. Given the urgency of the issue and in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals the new policy commits us to increase our funding and engagement with those most affected by the impact of climate change.

Election Monitoring Missions

Ceisteanna (72)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

72. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 81 of 6 March 2019, if additional concerns (details supplied) will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12353/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I refer the Deputy to the responses to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 115, 117, 119 and 126 of 5 March 2019. A detailed note on the operation of the roster, and its mustering, has been made available to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence, and is available at the following link:

Election Observation Roster

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (73)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

73. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the suppression of protests in Sudan by the government of President al-Bashir; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12354/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am deeply concerned about the violence which has accompanied recent protests in Sudan, including credible reports of multiple deaths.

Demonstrations, triggered by spiralling costs of living, began in the city of Atbara in the north east of the country on 19 December last year, quickly spreading to other towns and cities across the country. While initially the protests were against the worsening economic situation, they soon developed into calls for President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation.

In reaction to the protests, schools have been closed and a state of emergency declared in some regions. Sudanese police have used tear gas and live ammunition in an attempt to disperse crowds. It is reported that over 1,000 people have been arrested across the country since protests began and that more than 50 have been killed. The use of live fire and arbitrary detention cannot be justified.

Ireland fully supports the 28 February 2019 statement by the EU High Representative expressing concern at the situation in Sudan which underlined the importance of an environment for political dialogue and the exercise of the legitimate right to express differing views. Such an environment would be essential if the national consensus needed to find sustainable responses to Sudan's deep political and economic crisis is to be built. In addition, Ireland also fully supports the EU statement of 11 January 2019 which calls on the Government of Sudan to release all journalists, members of the opposition, human rights defenders and other protesters arbitrarily detained, and to guarantee the independence of the Investigation Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Sudanese Director of Public Prosecutions, tasked with the investigation of abuses.

The Embassy of Ireland in Nairobi, which is accredited to Sudan, continues to monitor the situation closely in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union in Khartoum.

In addition to the current unrest, Sudan continues to suffer from a range of humanitarian crises, driven by protracted conflicts, inequality and climate change. These feed into the popular disaffection leading to protests. This humanitarian situation has been further exacerbated by the economic crisis in 2018, leading to severe levels of food insecurity and malnutrition across the country. More than 1.8 million people are internally displaced and Sudan hosts a further 1.2 million refugees that have fled conflict in neighbouring countries, the majority of whom rely on humanitarian aid for their survival. As a result, an estimated 5.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan this year, including 2.6 million children. Ireland is responding to these crises, with almost €26 million in direct humanitarian assistance to Sudan through our UN, NGO and Red Cross partners since 2012.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (74, 76, 77)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

74. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his meeting in the Irish Embassy in London with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Ms Karen Bradley; the issues that were discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12355/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

76. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he discussed the comments made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Ms Karen Bradley, in the House of Commons on 6 March 2019 regarding those who were killed by members of the British Army in Northern Ireland during the Troubles during his meeting with her that evening; the response he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12357/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

77. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he spoke with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Ms Karen Bradley, on 6 March 2019 regarding the outstanding commitments between the Irish and British Governments relating to outstanding legacy issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12358/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 76 and 77 together.

I met with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, at the Embassy of Ireland in London, on 6 March. Our meeting focussed on Troubles legacy issues.

I made clear to the Secretary of State the Government's deep concern at the statement she had made earlier that day, regarding deaths caused by British soldiers and police during the Troubles, which had caused intense hurt and distress to families who lost loved ones in dreadful circumstances.

I underlined the need to investigate fully all Troubles related deaths, implement the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework, and honour the commitment under the 2001 Weston Park Agreement for a public inquiry in the Pat Finucane case.

I reiterated to the Secretary of State the Government's position that there must be effective investigations into all deaths during the Troubles, regardless of the perpetrator. I underlined that there are no amnesties from prosecution provided for in the Good Friday Agreement or any subsequent Agreements, including the Stormont House Agreement, and that the Government has been clear that it would not support any proposal to introduce such a measure, for state or non-state actors.

I also emphasised the imperative of moving ahead with legislation to establish the Stormont House Agreement legacy bodies, including to provide an effective system for investigation of outstanding legacy cases in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State acknowledged the deeply-felt concern her comments caused, and stated that this was not intended. Secretary of State Bradley also confirmed the British Government's continuing support for the Stormont House Agreement and its intention to progress the necessary implementing legislation. She also affirmed that all Troubles-related deaths must be effectively investigated in accordance with the law, whatever the circumstances and whoever the perpetrators.

The Secretary of State's subsequent statement on 7 March which apologised for the offence and hurt caused by her statement to families who lost loved ones is important. It is also important that the Secretary of State publicly confirmed that what she had said was wrong, that "where there is any evidence of wrongdoing this should be pursued without fear of favour whoever the perpetrators might be", and that this is and will remain the basis of the British Government's approach to dealing with legacy issues.

The Government will continue to engage with the British Government to seek the establishment of the Stormont House Agreement legacy institutions, in order to meet the legitimate needs and expectations of victims and survivors, for whom delivery of a comprehensive legacy framework is long overdue.

Official Engagements

Questions Nos. 76 and 77 answered with Question No. 74.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 75.

Ceisteanna (75, 78)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

75. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the dinner he attended in the Irish Embassy in London on 6 March 2019; the guests who attended; the issues that were discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12356/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

78. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he discussed the report by the head of the civil service in Northern Ireland regarding the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Northern Ireland at the dinner on 6 March 2019 in the Irish Embassy in London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12359/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 78 together.

On Wednesday 6th December, I welcomed the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to a special dinner at the Embassy of Ireland in London, hosted by Ambassador Adrian O’Neill. The dinner marked the start of the St. Patrick’s Day programme in Britain and celebrated the close ties and enduring friendship between our two countries.

We were joined by approximately 90 guests from across the worlds of politics, culture, business, media and the Irish community in order to mark the vibrant and positive bilateral connections we enjoy together.

During his speech at the dinner, Prince Charles reiterated his and the Duchess’ commitment to developing the relationship and the bonds between our two countries, saying

“We are friends, we are partners and we are the closest of near neighbours, bound together by everything that we have in common – and by just how far we have come together.”

In my own remarks, I spoke of "the extraordinarily vibrant and overwhelmingly positive connections that we now enjoy together - of culture and art, of economics and commerce, of friendship and family."

The dinner was obviously a social event and not a forum for discussion of policy issues. Therefore, I did not specifically discuss or address the recent letter from the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) to political parties in Northern Ireland on the grave economic implications of Brexit in a no deal scenario. Although I did have a separate meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the Embassy following the dinner, this focused on legacy issues.

The letter from the Head of the NICS follows on the UK Government’s paper of 26 February which notes that the cumulative impact from a ‘no deal’ scenario is expected to be more severe in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain, and to last longer. The letter sets out the work which the Northern Ireland Departments have been doing across a range of sectors in advance of the UK leaving the EU and amplifies the UK Government assessment. It notes that, despite the considerable amount of mitigation work that has been undertaken to date across Departments, Northern Ireland will face considerable and unavoidable residual risks, notably on the local economy in ways that cannot be mitigated.

I share the letter’s assessment, including its stark warning about the changes to everyday life, potential border frictions, and the potential for profound and long lasting impact on society. I have repeatedly discussed my concerns around the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland with my British counterparts. I can assure the Deputy that the imperative of avoiding that scenario will continue to inform the Government’s approach. Indeed from the outset, I have highlighted the socio-economic risks which Brexit poses for Northern Ireland as well as for the wider political situation there. I have repeatedly stated that a no deal Brexit is in no one’s interests, least of all for the people of Northern Ireland who, as the report and letter confirm, will be most affected. Those risks only serve to further highlight the absolute need to agree the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Questions Nos. 76 and 77 answered with Question No. 74.
Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 75.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (79, 82)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

79. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has discussed with the British Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the way in which the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland who still live there or here and in the UK are actually supported; the groups which receive funding to provide supports; the way in which this differs in each jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12361/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

82. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he or his officials have met with the Minister for Health and his officials to discuss the way in which victims of terrorism who live here could receive specific supports, in particular counselling, from the health service; if they receive support in accessing health services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12365/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 82 together.

I understand that these Questions refer to victims of violence during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Government's position is that there is no hierarchy of victims, whether killed or injured during the conflict in Northern Ireland by the actions of paramilitaries or by state forces. This is also the official position of the British Government and is provided for in UK statute.

The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to building on the progress made to establish the comprehensive institutional framework for dealing with the past that is provided for under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, maintaining the needs of the victims and survivors at the core of our approach.

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek the full implementation of the comprehensive legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement. This Agreement provides for the establishment of a number of legacy institutions, including the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval and Oral History Archive, which would be accessible to people in Northern Ireland, in this jurisdiction, and in Britain.

The Stormont House Agreement also includes provisions in respect of services for victims in Northern Ireland which are for implementation by the Executive. The Agreement in addition expressly affirms that the needs of victims who do not live in Northern Ireland should be recognised.

Consistent with this, the Programme for Government commits to continuing support for victims’ groups and to promote reconciliation among communities on both sides of the border, which were particularly affected by the Troubles, through the Government’s Reconciliation Fund and through Ministerial engagement with representatives of different community traditions.

The Reconciliation Fund is open to applications from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community groups, and voluntary organisations, to support reconciliation and to create better understanding between people and traditions on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. Groups who work with and support victims of the Troubles have made successful applications for support under the Reconciliation Fund. A list of grants awarded is published on my Department’s website after each funding round. Reflecting our ongoing deep commitment to supporting the work of reconciliation on this island, the Government has provided for a substantial increase of €1m for the Reconciliation Fund, bringing the total budget to €3.7m with effect from January 2019.

The Government also contributes significantly to the EU PEACE IV programme (2014 - 2020), and which includes a specific action on Victims and Survivors. This action is delivered by the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland which provides funding supports to organisations to employ Health and Wellbeing Case Managers, Health and Wellbeing Caseworkers, Advocacy Case Managers and Advocacy Caseworkers for victims and survivors irrespective of their place of residence.

A Remembrance Commission was established in 2003 and operated a Scheme of Acknowledgement, Remembrance and Assistance for Victims of the Troubles in this jurisdiction. The Commission's term of appointment formally came to an end on 31 October 2008 and the Commission disbursed over €6.5m to victims and their families in this time. On the conclusion of the Commission's term of appointment, the then Minister for Justice and Equality made special arrangements to ensure that victims resident in the jurisdiction who require ongoing medical treatment for injuries sustained in bombings and other incidents arising from the Troubles may have these costs reimbursed through the Victims of Crime Office of the Department of Justice and Equality.

Access to medical services in this jurisdiction, including access to counselling, is a matter for the HSE and my colleague, the Minister for Health. I have not had specific discussions with the Minister in this regard; however, I am ready to do so if there are specific suggestions to consider.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have valued the opportunity to meet with victims’ families and with survivors of Troubles-related attacks, North and South on the island of Ireland and in Britain, to hear their views, experiences and concerns. As the Government continues work to implement the legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement, we will maintain our ongoing engagement with victims groups, to take account of their views and maintain their needs at the core of our approach.

Northern Ireland

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 79.

Ceisteanna (80, 81)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

80. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he or his Department officials have met with a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12362/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

81. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which his Department can facilitate requests from various groups such as a group (details supplied) to assist them with reaching out to victims and all their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12364/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 81 together.

I have not personally met with the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF). My Department regularly engages on my behalf with SEFF, which provides access to well-being and advocacy services for a significant number of victims' families and survivors of Troubles-related attacks both in Northern Ireland and in this jurisdiction.

In recent years, my Department's engagement with SEFF has included attendance at SEFF's annual conference and visits to the group's centre in Fermanagh. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has facilitated SEFF in organising events in this jurisdiction to engage with victims families and survivors here, most recently in July last year, as part of SEFF's advocacy engagement on the UK government's public consultation on draft legislation to establish the legacy institutions provided for under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. SEFF successfully applied for funding under my Department's Reconciliation Fund in 2015. My Department will continue this constructive engagement with SEFF in the period ahead.

The Government also contributes significantly to the EU PEACE IV programme (2014-2020), and which includes a specific action on Victims and Survivors. This action is delivered by the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland which provides funding supports to organisations - including SEFF - to employ Health and Wellbeing Case Managers, Health and Wellbeing Caseworkers, Advocacy Case Managers and Advocacy Caseworkers for victims and survivors irrespective of their place of residence.

This engagement and funding support from the Government is part of our commitment, set out in the Programme for Partnership Government, to continue support for victims’ groups and to promote reconciliation among communities on both sides of the border, which were particularly affected by the Troubles. This support is also channelled through the Government’s Reconciliation Fund and through Ministerial engagement with representatives of different community traditions.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have valued the opportunity to meet with victims’ families and with survivors of Troubles-related attacks, North and South on the island of Ireland and in Britain, to hear their views, experiences and concerns.

Consistent with our commitments in the Programme for Partnership Government, as the Government continues work to implement the legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement to address the legacy of the past, we will maintain our engagement with victims groups as well as victims' families and survivors, to take account of their views and maintain their needs at the core of our approach.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 79.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (83)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

83. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has received an update on the meetings that the British Attorney General has been having with EU officials on the withdrawal treaty and the backstop in particular. [11928/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I spoke with Michel Barnier over the weekend, during his visit to Dublin. I also remain in contact with my UK counterparts, and spoke with David Lidington during my visit to London late last week.

There have been an intensive series of meeting between the EU and the UK over the past few weeks, including between the British Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, the UK Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier. The Commission has been working with the UK to agree language with a view towards the meaningful vote in Westminster, without reopening or contradicting the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop.

On 11 May Prime Minister May and President Juncker agreed a package of measures comprising of an “Instrument relating to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community” and a “Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” There was constant contact between our team and the Commission's team over the last number of days as these documents were being developed. The Taoiseach also spoke by phone with President Juncker before the package was agreed with Prime Minister May.

These documents are complementary to the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration and aim to provide an additional layer of interpretation, clarification and elaboration to the United Kingdom. They provide the legal assurances sought by the UK on the temporary nature of the backstop, as well as additions to the political declaration on the future relationship setting clearly our commitment to finding alternative arrangements to the backstop.

The Government welcomes this agreement, and is prepared to back this package of measures in the interests of securing an overall deal. As we have said all along, the backstop is an insurance policy. We have no intention of wishing to trap the UK into an arrangement against its will. The Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop does not do this, but does provide the guarantees that a hard border will be avoided and that the Good Friday Agreement is fully protected.

The EU is fully committed to exploring alternative arrangements so that the backstop is never used, or would only apply temporarily if it ever needs to be used. The agreed package makes clear that work on these alternative arrangements will begin as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement is signed.

This has not been an easy process and compromise has been shown on both sides. We hope that with these further assurances the House of Commons will approve the Withdrawal Agreement. This is the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal that fully protects the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (84, 112, 113)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

84. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Finance if a response will issue to a query (details supplied) regarding a no-deal Brexit. [11897/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

112. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Finance if cars will be tariff free in the event of a no-deal Brexit (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11895/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

113. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding vehicles (details supplied) in the event of a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11896/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84, 112 and 113 together.

I am advised by Revenue that they have had extensive engagement with businesses and trade representative bodies throughout the State over the last number of months to assist them in their preparations for Brexit.

I am advised by Revenue that, subject to documentary evidence, a car dealer who has new vehicles in stock that were imported through the UK, which were pre-registered with VRT quotations and are in the State before 29 March, will not be subject to differing rules on tariffs, VAT or VRT.

If a car dealer sells vehicles that are manufactured and invoiced from Italy but are transported to Ireland via the UK, Revenue have advised that these are EU goods which may be transported directly to Ireland via direct shipping routes or alternatively may be transported through the UK under the control of a customs procedure called the Customs Transit procedure.

EU goods moving under the Customs Transit procedure, from one Member State to another, through a third country, are treated as EU goods upon re-entry to the EU and therefore incur no additional import duties or taxes upon arrival into the State.

I am advised by Revenue that new and used vehicles and/or parts imported from the UK post-Brexit, having been manufactured in the UK, would be subject to Common Customs Tariffs (CCT) in the event of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement. A complete description of the item being imported would be required in order to give a full customs tariff classification, this is particularly important for the importation of car parts and accessories. In the case of new or used vehicles imported from a third country, customs duty is chargeable at importation in the normal way, unless the trader has been authorised by Revenue for the deferral of taxes and duties.

Full details of the customs procedures are available on Revenue’s dedicated Brexit website www.revenue.ie/brexit. If further information is required in relation to customs procedures, these can be addressed to brexitqueries@revenue.ie.

In relation to VAT, vehicles that are acquired from Italy and transited through the United Kingdom will be subject to the current VAT rules. Vehicles imported from the UK will be subject to VAT at the point of importation.

In order to alleviate the cash flow burden on Irish businesses post Brexit, I have legislated for postponed accounting for import VAT. Under this system, importers will not pay import VAT at the point of entry but will instead account for import VAT through their VAT return, so that it is reclaimed at the same time that it is declared - a straightforward simultaneous in/out accounting transaction, without the need to pay the import VAT at the point of entry to the State. Use of postponed accounting will be optional and will be available to all traders in Ireland who trade with operators in countries outside of the European Union for a time after Brexit, after which continuation of the facility will be subject to conditions, to be set by the Revenue Commissioners at a later date.

Insurance Coverage

Ceisteanna (85)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

85. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to insurance companies increasing premiums or not covering persons who are renting rooms to students as part of the rent-a-room relief tax credit; his views on same; if insurance companies will be contacted on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12233/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

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 policyholders.

It is my understanding that insurers use a combination of rating factors in making their individual decisions on whether to offer insurance cover and what terms to apply. My understanding also is that insurance companies do not all use the same combination of rating factors, and as a result prices and availability of cover varies across the market. In addition, insurance companies will price in accordance with their own past claims experience. Notwithstanding the above, my officials contacted Insurance Ireland on foot of the Deputy’s query to understand more about the process. Insurance Ireland advised that generally the key factor that insurers consider in terms of the scenarios outlined in the Deputy’s question is if the home owner is permanently occupying the premises as their main residence. There was no indication from the companies surveyed that cover was not available to home owners who sought to take advantage of the rent-a room scheme.

Finally, Insurance Ireland operates a free Insurance Information Service for those who have queries, complaints or difficulties in relation to obtaining insurance. Insurance Ireland can be contacted at feedback@insuranceireland.eu or 01-6761914.

Mortgage Lending

Ceisteanna (86)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

86. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the rules the Central Bank has in place on promotional and other material relating to mortgage offers; if the Central Bank has power to instruct that such material be changed; the number of instances in which such material was submitted to the Central Bank with regard to cashback offers; the number of instances in which the Central Bank instructed that such material be altered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11492/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Following a public consultation process, the Central Bank introduced enhanced mortgage switching and transparency rules to the Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code) by means of the Addendum which became effective from 1 January 2019:

(www.centralbank.ie/docs/default-source/regulation/consumer-protection/other-codes-of-conduct/addendum-to-consumer-protection-code-2012---june-2018.pdf?sfvrsn=4).

As a result of the enhanced mortgage switching measures, an existing provision in the Code which required that information be provided to the consumer where a regulated entity offered an incentive on an existing mortgage holder, has now been extended to apply to all mortgages i.e. for existing, new and switching mortgage holders. This is to ensure that personal 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. This rule in the Code requires lenders to provide consumers with information needed by them to consider the incentive offered. This information must:

- quantify the implications for the consumer of availing of the incentive including an indicative cost comparison of the total cost of the existing mortgage if they do not avail of the incentive and the total cost of the mortgage if they avail of the incentive;

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

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

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

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

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

In relation to the advertising of mortgage products, including incentives, the Code already contains an extensive suite of advertising rules with which regulated firms must comply. These include requirements that the design, presentation and content of all advertisements must be clear, fair, accurate and not misleading, and must not seek to influence a consumer’s attitude to the product of the entity by ambiguity, exaggeration or omission. Key information must be prominent and not obscured or disguised in any way.

The Central Bank undertook a review of mortgage related advertising in 2018, with a focus on cash back incentives, to assess whether or not lenders were advertising mortgages with cashback offers in a clear and unambiguous way. The Bank advises that 183 advertisements were reviewed for compliance with the advertising requirements in the Code and the European Union (Consumer Mortgage Credit Agreements) Regulations 2016. In some cases, the same advertisement may have appeared across all formats of advertising reviewed (e.g. print, on-line, outdoor advertising etc).

As a result of the review, the Central Bank advised that it instructed lenders to withdraw or amend c.75% of the advertisements reviewed. In summary, it was found that:

(a) key information and qualifying criteria was not always included in the main body of the advertisements, or indeed in the small print (e.g. whether a current account with the lender was required in order to qualify);

(b) the content of some webpages was not accurate and/or up to date; and

(c) the content of some of the advertisements was unclear (e.g. how the cash back incentive was calculated).

Financial Services Sector

Ceisteanna (87)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

87. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the car finance model being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK in which credit brokers are paid commission based on interest charged exists here; if the Central Bank has views on this model; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11493/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised that the majority of hire purchase agreements, such as PCPs, are provided to consumers through credit intermediaries. Under the Consumer Credit Act 1995, credit intermediaries are authorised by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the CCPC advises that, when performing intermediary functions, credit intermediaries are required to disclose certain information in writing to the consumer including that the intermediary receives a commission, payment or consideration of any kind from an undertaking for arranging any such financial accommodation.

While intermediaries are frequently involved in the process, hire purchase agreements are ultimately provided by hire purchase providers and these providers are the entity which is the “owner” of the good let to the consumer under the hire purchase agreement. While hire-purchase providers themselves are not required to obtain authorisation from the Central Bank (or the CCPC) for the provision of hire-purchase agreements, nevertheless this is an activity which is subject to statutory control and which contains important consumer protections. For example, Parts II and VI of the Consumer Credit Act (both of which fall within Central Bank designated provisions of the Act) provide that important information be disclosed in advertisements for hire purchase agreements and also in the agreements as entered into by consumers. This includes information on the cash price of the good, as well as the APR and hire purchase price. My officials have checked with both the CCPC and the Central Bank and neither entity has seen any evidence of the practices in the UK as referred to in the question operating in Ireland. Also the Bank has indicated that no specific issue in relation to the provision of hire purchase agreements or their associated commission arrangements arose during the consultation process on Intermediary Inducements (CP 116).

As the Deputy will be aware, more generally I asked Mr. Michael Tutty to conduct a review of the PCP market and regulatory structure and his report was published by my Department last November. That report found that there was currently no evidence of consumer detriment arising from PCPs but nevertheless it set out a number of recommendations to help avoid possible problems arising in the future. I have previously indicated that I broadly accept the recommendations and conclusions of the Tutty report. Nevertheless, in line with some of the report’s recommendations my Department is currently consulting the Office of the Attorney General on some specific issues raised in the report, and when a response is to hand my Department will further engage with the Central Bank, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the CCPC on this matter.

Insurance Costs

Ceisteanna (88)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

88. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the next quarterly update from the cost of insurance working group will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11505/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy is aware, the Cost of Insurance Working Group is chaired by the Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, Mr. Michael D’Arcy T.D., and has produced two primary reports, the 2017 Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance (“Motor Report”) and the 2018 Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance (“EL/PL Report”). Work has been ongoing on the implementation of the recommendations from these two Reports by the relevant Government Departments and Agencies and there is a commitment that the Working Group will prepare regular updates on its progress.

The eighth such Progress Update was published on my Department's website on Monday 4 March. The latest Progress Update concentrated in particular on outlining the definitive position in relation to all of the 33 recommendations from the Motor Report, as the last of the deadlines within its Action Plan passed at the end of 2018. 29 of these recommendations have either been completed, are categorised as “ongoing” and in respect of which work is continuing, or have been concluded in so far as the direct involvement of the CIWG is concerned.

In respect of the EL/PL Report, 24 out of the total of 26 action points which were due for completion during 2018 overall have been accomplished.

This Progress Update also included an additional section providing the up-to-date status in respect of relevant recommendations from the two reports issued by the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC).

Finally, the Deputy should be assured that Minister of State D’Arcy and the Working Group will continue to push for the completion of all outstanding recommendations and action points, as well as seeking to put into place the relevant measures proposed by the PIC.

Personal Injury Claims

Ceisteanna (89)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

89. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance his plans to regulate claims harvesting companies in the area of personal injuries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11527/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Allegations of companies engaging in what has been termed as ‘claims harvesting’ practices were brought up during the Cost of Insurance Working Group’s consultation process, as well as through representations and Parliamentary Questions submitted by, for instance, the Alliance for Insurance Reform and the Deputy himself previously.

The Department’s Insurance Policy section has undertaken research in respect of Claims Management Companies (CMCs), including engagements with relevant parties, most particularly the Law Society of Ireland and the Claims Management Regulation Unit, the UK body set up within the Ministry of Justice to regulate CMCs there. Following this examination, I do not believe there is a compelling argument at present for putting in place a regulatory regime for CMCs in Ireland for a number of reasons, which are set out below.

Firstly, and most importantly, there does not appear to be a sufficient number of CMCs operating in the Irish market to justify the establishment of a specific regulator. The Department has been advised by those with a level of expertise in this area that the number of active ‘claims harvesting’ websites operating in Ireland has significantly reduced from approximately 60 in 2016 to around half-a-dozen more recently. The Department has also been advised that between about 23 and 40 websites have been taken down directly as a result of the Law Society’s work in this area, at least two as a result of Orders from the President of the High Court following arduous and complex investigations.

Secondly, it would appear that many of the websites which are operating in Ireland may not actually be located within the jurisdiction nor within other EU countries. I understand that this factor increases the levels of complexity of investigations, as it can be particularly difficult to establish who the owners of the relevant websites are. My view, and that of the Department, is that in such circumstances it would be just as problematic for a specially appointed supervisor to determine basic facts such as ownership. Therefore, from a cost benefit perspective, it is difficult to justify incurring significant costs to establish such a role.

Thirdly, we have stringent rules in relation to how solicitors can operate in relation to advertising and generating business. In particular,

- the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002 prohibits solicitors’ advertisements offering inducements to make personal injuries claims, and

- Section 62 of the Solicitors Act 1954 prohibits solicitors from rewarding or agreeing to reward unqualified persons for the introduction of legal business, i.e., payment of a referral fee.

This is in contrast to the situation in the UK for example. The Irish rules are significant deterrents and are actively enforced by the Law Society.

Fourthly, it is our view that the setting up of a supervisor would afford CMCs a level of legitimacy and recognition which is certainly currently absent in Ireland. It would appear based on my officials’ conversations with the UK authorities that the referral fee ban has been widely circumvented there to at least some degree without the relevant entities losing their authorisation. This would appear to show that the tolerance level for referral fees is far higher in the UK than it is here. This is reflected in the fact that CMCs are seen as legitimate businesses in the UK and much of the regulatory work which the supervisor undertakes is related to matters of consumer protection, consumer awareness and ensuring adherence to applicable rules, rather than seeking to eliminate what we would consider as ‘claims harvesting’-type activity.

The UK supervisor also seeks to ensure adherence to relevant advertising regulations, but again the regulations in this country appear to be far more stringent, with, for example, a ‘no win, no fee’ policy being openly advertised on the main authorised Personal Injury CMC websites in the UK. As you are aware, such advertising is prohibited in this country.

My view is that the existing solicitor regulations have helped prevent the type of situation currently pertaining in the UK from evolving to anywhere near the same extent here.

In conclusion therefore, at this point in time, I do not believe a compelling case for regulation can be made from a cost benefit analysis perspective. It should be noted that under section 218 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, when commenced, such advertising will no longer be regulated by the legal professional bodies as happens at present but by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. Specifically, section 218(d)(vi) of the 2015 Act allows for the restriction of any advertisement which, in the opinion of the Authority, “expressly or impliedly solicits, encourages or offers any inducement to any person or group or class of persons to make claims for personal injuries or seek legal services in connection with such claims.” The Authority will be undertaking consultations for the making of regulations for the advertising of legal services by legal practitioners, whether solicitors or barristers, under section 218 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. The Legal Services Regulatory Authority is expected to take over this responsibility in July 2019.

I will, of course, keep the situation under review, and my officials will continue to monitor the prevalence or otherwise of this issue. In addition, I would suggest that if anyone is of the view that particular solicitor firms are using such claim harvesting websites, they should report the matter to the Law Society/ Legal Services Regulatory Authority for investigation.

Revenue Commissioners

Ceisteanna (90)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

90. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Revenue Commissioners will not accept correspondence from agricultural colleges (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11537/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that, in relation to tax reliefs for ‘young trained farmers’, different verification procedures may be applied depending on whether the particular course is a course approved by Teagasc, with qualifications awarded by the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland, or a course with qualifications awarded directly by third-level institutions.

The appropriate verification treatment to be applied depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. In the case of qualifications awarded by the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland, the usual position is that a letter issued to a young farmer by a college contains details about course completion and results but also indicates that the attainment of the required qualification depends on external verification by Teagasc still to be carried out and that a certificate will be provided following this verification. Such a letter would not be accepted by Revenue as evidence of a young farmer having attained the qualification as the required verification had not been carried out.

The ‘details supplied’ in relation to this case do not contain sufficient information to allow Revenue to give a definitive view on the matter. If there is an actual case involved, the Deputy might provide more detailed information as follows:

- the name of the young farmer,

- the name of the course and college involved,

- the date of the Teagasc external verification (if relevant),

- the date of the award of the qualification/receipt of the certificate, and

- whether or not the farmland has been transferred to the young farmer and, if so, the date of execution of the deed of transfer.

Alternatively, the Deputy, or the farmer involved if this concerns an actual case, might wish to contact Revenue directly to discuss the matter. In this regard, contact should be made with Imelda Scally in Revenue’s National Stamp Duty Office at 01-8589324 or iscally@revenue.ie.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

91. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the revenue generated by the sugar-sweetened drinks tax since its introduction; if he will provide a revised estimate of the revenue raised from the tax in a full year and a projection for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11546/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

92. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the number of products that have been affected by the imposition of a calcium threshold on products exempt from the sugar-sweetened drinks tax; if the imposition of the threshold has brought these products within the scope of the tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11547/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

93. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the consideration which has been given to extending the sugar-sweetened drinks tax to products within the CN2202 category in which sugar has been added; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11548/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

94. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the status of an evaluation that has taken place of the sugar-sweetened drinks tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11549/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

95. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the research which has been undertaken on evidence-based fiscal measures to support healthy eating and lifestyles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11550/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

96. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the review of evidence which has taken place for fiscal measures on products that are high in fat, sugar and salt to reduce their consumption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11551/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 to 96, inclusive, together.

Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax (SSDT) was introduced on 1 May 2018 and applies when sugar sweetened drinks are first supplied in the State. SSDT applies on a volumetric basis at one of two rates, dependent on the total sugar content of the ‘ready to consume’ form of the sugar sweetened drink: €16.26 per hectolitre on drinks with a total sugar content of at least five and less than eight grams per 100 millilitres and €24.39 per hectolitre on drinks with a total sugar content of eight grams or more per 100 millilitres.

Revenue has advised that SSDT yield for 2018 totalled €16.51m and that at the end of February 2019 SSDT yield for 2019 totalled €6.5m. The SSDT yield estimate for 2019 is €35m.

In response to Ireland’s formal notification of the tax, the European Commission confirmed that the measures did not constitute a State aid under EU rules. This decision was given on the basis that Ireland had committed to extend the scope of the tax to certain drinks, within CN Code heading 2202, that do not meet specific health benefit criteria, defined as containing at least 119 milligrams of calcium per 100 millilitres.

In order to meet this commitment, SSDT legislation was amended in Finance Act 2018 to bring defined categories of drinks that do not contain at least 119 milligrams of calcium per 100 millilitres within scope of SSDT. The legislative amendments, which came into effect on 1 January 2019, impacted on sugar sweetened plant protein drinks and drinks containing milk fats, that fall within CN Code heading 2202. These drinks, that were previously excluded from taxation, are subject to SSDT if they have a total sugar content of 5 grams or more per 100 millilitres and do not carry nutritional information indicating a calcium content of at least 119 milligrams per 100 millilitres.

The types of drinks within CN Code heading 2202 that were impacted by the legislative changes are those covered by five specific subheadings:

a) Plant protein drinks such as those based on soya, nuts, cereals and seeds (covered by CN Code subheadings 2202 99 11, 2202 99 15);

b) Drinks containing milk fats (covered by CN Code subheadings 2202 99 91, 2202 99 95 and 2202 99 99)

Information is not available on the number of products affected by the imposition of a calcium threshold and I am advised that Revenue does not maintain a list of products that are liable to SSDT.

The commencement of the SSDT on 1 May last was in line with one of the recommendations in the National Obesity Policy and Action Plan. It represents a positive step in our national policy to deal with the problem of obesity. Work is underway on the development of an evaluation framework for this tax in conjunction with the Department of Health.

The question of considering further fiscal measures similar to the SSDT is being kept under review in conjunction with the Dept of Health and the National Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group. We are in the early implementation phase of the SSDT and the priority of my Department is to ensure that this is a success rather than to plan for the introduction of any new taxes with a similar purpose.