Commissions of Investigation

Ceisteanna (68)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

68. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the status of the commission of investigation into the IBRC; and the projected costs in this regard. [24101/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

In the Commission’s Sixth Interim Report, Judge Brian Cregan requested an extension of its deadline for reporting until the end of March 2020. He also responded to several issues that I had raised with him in November last year regarding the estimated final cost of the investigation, the timescale for completion of the Commission's work and whether it would be possible for the Commission to reach interim findings.

On 31 May 2019, following completion of consultations with the Opposition party representatives, I agreed to extend the Commission's timeframe for reporting until 31 March 2020. I have also arranged for the Commission's Sixth Interim Report to be published on my Department's website and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Other than what has been published in the Commission's Interim Reports I have no information on the status of its investigation as the Commission is completely independent in its work.

Regarding costs, the Commission’s Sixth Interim Report provides an estimated final cost of the completion of the first module of its investigation, regarding the Siteserv transaction, of €11 million to €14 million. However, this estimate assumes the investigation is completed in accordance with the timetable set out in the Interim Report and excludes costs or delays associated with judicial review hearings. The Commission also acknowledges that it also involves a substantial degree of uncertainty regarding the amount of costs actually recoverable by parties before the Commission, and it assumes the Commission’s Legal Costs Guidelines are not successfully challenged. As I have informed Opposition party representatives, my Department continues to be of the view that the final cost is likely to significantly exceed his estimate, and could be of the order of €30m.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (69, 70, 71)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

69. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if taxation was discussed when he met with President Trump. [24446/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

70. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if corporation tax was discussed when he met with President Trump recently. [24447/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

71. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if foreign direct investment was discussed when he met with President Trump recently. [24448/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 to 71, inclusive, together.

The President and I did not have a detailed discussion about corporation tax. Before our meeting got underway, the President did comment, in response to a question from the media, that both Ireland and the US have competitive corporation tax rates. In our discussions, we did discuss economic matters generally and I reaffirmed that Ireland’s economic development strategy is focused on attracting inward investment of substance, in terms of job creation, and that the Government is committed to ensuring that companies pay their fair share of tax.

President Trump and I also discussed international trade, including foreign direct investment. We welcomed the increasingly two-way economic relationship between Ireland and the United States. Today in the US, Irish-owned companies employ more than 100,000 workers across all 50 States. Meanwhile, there are 550 US firms with operations in Ireland, employing approximately 155,000 people. The President recognised the advantages of Ireland as a location for investment by US multinationals seeking to access the European market.

Naval Service

Ceisteanna (72)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

72. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a recruitment campaign for the diving section in the Naval Service will happen in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24505/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Naval Service does not recruit directly into the Naval Service Diving Section.

Serving members of the Defence Forces are selected and trained to the required standard of military diving competence.  The military authorities have advised that applications have been sought for a Ship's Diver Course which is scheduled to run in Quarter 4 of 2019.  Successful completion of this course will qualify individuals as naval divers.

Defence Forces Expenditure

Ceisteanna (73)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

73. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the allocation made to the Defence Forces for pay and pensions in each of the past ten years; the amount spent in each of the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24569/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Permanent Defence Force (PDF) pay is provided for in Subhead A.3 of the Defence Vote (Vote 36). Payment of pension entitlements to former members of the Defence Forces and certain dependants are provided for in the Army Pensions Vote (Vote 35).

The Government has ensured that full funding has been provided over the period for the target PDF strength. Savings have arisen where the actual strength has fallen below the target level.

The following tables set out the gross allocation and expenditure on PDF Pay and Army Pensions over the last ten years.

 

PDF Pay Original Allocation (Subhead A.3)

PDF Pay  Outturn (Subhead A.3)

2018

€428.2m

€398.7m

2017

€417.1m

€396.5m

2016

€416.1m

€385.5m

2015

€417.5m

€389.9m

2014

€422.5m

€395.6m

2013

€423.3m

€413.4m

2012

€425.4m

€394.8m

2011

€442.4m

€421.3m

2010

€438.1m

€433.2m

2009

€475.8m

€475.3m

 

 

Vote   35 Gross Allocation (Original)*

Vote   35 Gross Allocation (incl Supp)

Vote   35 Gross Outturn

2018

€239.1m

€242.6m

€242.3m

2017

€229.6m

€240.6m

€240.0m

2016

€223.7m

€234.7m

€234.7m

2015

€221.0m

€227.5m

€227.4m

2014

€221.0m

€225.7m

€225.7m

2013

€214.8m

€223.8m

€223.7m

2012

€214.4m

€243.9m

€243.8m

2011

€208.1m

€223.4m

€223.4m

2010

€209.0m

€218.5m

€218.2m

2009

€209.0m

€214.9m

€214.8m

*Vote 35 Gross Allocation and Outturn includes provision for administrative costs associated to the Army Pensions Board and for the allowances payable to the surviving spouses of deceased Veterans of the War of Independence. 

Savings arising within the Subheads of the Defence Vote have been, in consultation with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, used to address spending pressure elsewhere in the Vote or Vote Group, including Army Pensions. Savings arising in the PDF pay allocation in the years highlighted have been fully utilised within the Vote Group.

The Army Pensions Vote has required a Supplementary Estimate in the years in question in order to meet the additional superannuation costs of military pensioners. The number of Defence Forces pensioners has continued to rise year on year and expenditure requirements during these years were greater than what was provided for in the original Estimate.

Defence Forces Strength

Ceisteanna (74)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

74. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the last time the establishment number was achieved; the shortfall each year it was not achieved; if this figure takes into account those on training or other absences; if there was a difference in the amount allocated for wages and the amount spent in each of the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24570/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

It has not been possible in the time available to compile all the necessary documentation requested by the Deputy. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Air Corps

Ceisteanna (75)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

75. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when he first received the report on the findings of the independent third party appointed to investigate protected disclosures relating to chemical exposure in the Air Corps; the steps he has taken to act on its findings since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24571/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Three written disclosures were made, in November and December 2015 and January 2016, under the provisions of section 8 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, relating to alleged failings in the Defence Organisation in the area of Health and Safety.  Legal advice was sought on how best to progress certain disclosures as elements related to matters which are the subject of the ongoing litigation. As the Deputy will be aware, the State Claims Agency is currently managing nine claims taken against the Minister for Defence, for personal injuries alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substance whilst working in the Air Corps in the period 1991 to 2006.

I appointed an independent reviewer to examine the disclosures.  Following receipt of the report of the independent reviewer, which was submitted to me on 19 June, 2017, I invited the views of those who had made the disclosures and published the report.  I also sent the report to the Chief of Staff for the views and actions of the military authorities to be set out. 

In parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps had continued to work with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to improve its health and safety regime. I have been informed by the military authorities that the HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances.  Subject to completion of the improvement plan the HSA investigation is closed. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

The matter of the disclosures is receiving consideration in the context of the responses I received from the parties and legal advices in the context of ongoing active litigation.

Passport Applications

Ceisteanna (76)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

76. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a passport application by a person (details supplied) is likely to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24365/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008 as amended (“the 2008 Act”). The 2008 Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him/her. Entitlement to Irish citizenship is in turn determined by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 as amended (“the 1956 Act”), under which and in general Irish citizenship may be obtained by birth, by descent or by naturalisation.

A person is entitled to Irish citizenship if they were born on the island of Ireland before 1 January 2005 or after that date subject to certain conditions. Section 6A of the 1956 Act, provides that a person born in the State on or after 1 January 2005 where neither parent is an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction, may claim citizenship by birth in the State where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for 3 years of the 4 years preceding their birth.

In respect of the application referred to, I am advised by the Passport Service that sufficient evidence of a parent's lawful residence in the State for 3 years of the 4 years preceding the birth of the child applicant in question was not received.  Furthermore, I am advised that the Passport Service has issued a letter this week to the applicant on outlining the matter in further detail. 

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (77)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

77. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of progress on the talks in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24449/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The absence of vital institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.

On 26 April, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister May announced a new phase of political talks in Northern Ireland, involving the five main parties, together with the British and Irish Governments. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, and I convened these talks in Belfast on 7 May.

There has been constructive engagement in the process and it is clear that the parties want to see the institutions of the Agreement operating again on a sustainable basis. There has been broad consensus on some issues, but also key issues are still to be resolved.

I and the Secretary of State believe that there is a genuine but narrow window of opportunity to reach agreement in the period immediately ahead and that it is essential to continue and intensify talks to this end.

In their joint statement on 2 June, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister welcomed the constructive engagement in the process and underlined that it is imperative that the parties now move without delay to engaging substantively on the shape of a final agreement.

Accordingly, the two Governments supported an intensification of the talks last week and there was engagement on outstanding issues by the leaders of the five political parties. Secretary of State Bradley and I are intensively engaged on behalf the two Governments in the talks at Stormont again this week, to encourage the party leaders to move towards a final agreement.

Ultimately, it will be for the parties to rise to the challenge of finding an agreement. This will be difficult, but the two Governments believe that this can, and must, be achieved to get the devolved, power-sharing Assembly and Executive and the North South Ministerial Council functioning again. 

The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.

European Council Meetings

Ceisteanna (78)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

78. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Israel and Palestine were discussed at the recent EU meeting of foreign ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24450/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The most recent meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council took place in Brussels on 13 May. Ministers did not discuss Israel and Palestine.

I do however expect that the Middle East Peace Process will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg on 18 June, since regional issues would be a natural topic for discussion with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, who is expected to be present. 

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (79)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

79. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has met or spoken with Mr. Michel Barnier recently; if so, the issues that were discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24451/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Throughout the Article 50 process I, as well as officials from my Department, have had frequent and ongoing contact with representatives from other EU27 Member States, the Commission and the Article 50 Task Force headed by Michel Barnier, as well as with the UK.

I met with Mr Barnier on 8 April during his visit to Dublin in advance of the European Council on 10 April. On that occasion we discussed preparations for the European Council meeting, and the question of an extension to Article 50, as well as preparations at the national and EU level for Brexit, including a no deal Brexit. Mr Barnier also held meetings with the Taoiseach and Minister Donohoe. I also met him again briefly on the margins of the General Affairs Council (Article 50) in Luxembourg on 9 April.

Since the European Council (Article 50) meeting of 10 April, and the decision to extend the date of the UK's departure from the European Union until 31 October, my officials have been, and will continue to be, in regular contact with both the Article 50 Taskforce and the Commission's Brexit Preparedness Group to discuss and review ongoing developments.

My most recent discussions with Mr. Barnier and my colleagues throughout the EU once again underlined the strong solidarity with Ireland and the EU's absolute committment, notwithstanding the ongoing political impasse in the UK, to protect the Good Friday Agreement. As the European Council made clear again on 10 April, the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, cannot be renegotiated, and any unilateral commitments by the UK Government should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement. However, should the position of the UK evolve, such as in the area of customs, then the EU would be prepared to reconsider the Political Declaration on the future relationship. There is complete agreement that responsibility for avoiding a no-deal Brexit firmly lies with the UK.

The European Council will review the current situation at its meeting on 20-21 June.

Passport Applications Administration

Ceisteanna (80)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

80. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the average waiting time for passport applications; his plans to recruit more personnel to deal with the additional summer volume; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24452/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Passport Service is currently in its peak season for passport demand with the vast majority of applications being received between February and August each year. All renewal applications are currently being processed within target turnaround times. A large proportion of applications submitted through the Online Passport Renewal Service are currently being processed in timeframes shorter than the target turnaround time of 10 working days.

The following table summarises the turnaround times for the Passport Service’s main application channels. Turnaround times for individual Missions outside Ireland and the UK are omitted as these will vary for each individual Mission and are dependent on local postal services.

Type of passport application 

Target turnaround time 

Actual turnaround time

Online Passport Renewal Service   

 10 working days

 10 working days

An Post Passport Express renewal application

 15 working days

 15 working days

An Post Passport Express first time application & application to replace lost/stolen/damaged passport

 20 working days

 21 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express renewal applications

 15 working days

 15 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express first time application & application to replace lost/stolen/damaged passport

 25 working days

 29 working days

London Passport Office renewal application

 20 working days

 15 working days

London Passport Office first time application & application to replace lost/stolen/damaged passport

 30 working days

 73 working days

A number of measures have been taken by the Passport Service to manage the increase in demand including the recruitment of additional staff, the continuous implementation of technological and service improvements and the re-organisation of production processes and administrative arrangements.

At the end of 2018, the Passport Service employed 363.2 Full Time Equivalent staff. This is an increase of over 40 staff since the same point in 2017. Already this year, over 90 additional Full Time Equivalent staff have taken up roles in the Passport Service. Targeted overtime has been sanctioned for both permanent and temporary staff when required. The Passport Service has received approval to recruit over 230 Temporary Clerical Officers (TCOs) in 2019 to assist in processing passport applications and to deal with the queries from the general public. A dedicated Customer Service Hub has been established to deal with queries from the public and additional staff have been allocated.

The Passport Reform Programme continues to deliver major upgrades to the Passport Service technology platforms and business processes as well as significant customer service improvements. The award winning Online Passport Renewal Service has been the most significant project launched under the Programme to date. The second phase of the Online Passport Renewal Service was rolled out in November 2018. The online facility now allows for the renewal of children's passports and has expanded the cohort of adults eligible to renew online. The online service brings significant benefits to citizens with faster turnaround times and greater customer satisfaction. The online service has been instrumental in the management of overall passport operations and in allowing the Passport Service to allocate staff resources more efficiently to cope with unprecedented demand. Other projects that will advance in 2019 include the development of business process automation, document management systems and the roll out of mailing machines.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (81, 82, 83)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

81. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the new commitment of the Colombian Government to implement the peace process according to the peace agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24474/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

82. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the importance of ensuring the all the inhabitants of the 24 ETCRs in operation are guaranteed proper and secure reincorporation regarding the Colombian peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24475/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

83. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the assessment he has made of the importance of continuing support for the physical and economic security of FARC members in the reincorporation process; the assessment he has made of the necessity to ensure that all the inhabitants of the 24 ETCRs in operation are guaranteed proper and secure reincorporation; and the assessment he has made of the decision of the Colombian Supreme Court to release a person (details supplied). [24512/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 to 83, inclusive, together.

The peace agreement that was signed between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) in November 2016 brought to an end over 50 years of armed conflict in the country, which cost the lives of over 200,000 people and resulted in widespread violence and displacement.

Colombia has made great strides in the implementation of the peace accords, and I was pleased to see President Duque sign the statutory law governing the transitional justice system, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisidicción Especial para la Paz - JEP), last week. Transitional justice is an integral part of the peace process and this marks an important achievement.

However, significant challenges remain, including regarding the safety and reincorporation of former combatants, as well as the protection of human rights defenders, social leaders and activists. In our exchanges with the Colombian Government, Ireland raises regularly reports of violence, threats and intimidation against these groups. 

The reincoporation of former combatants, and the ability of human rights defenders and social activistis to safely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly, are essential to the successful implementation of the peace accords and to the transition of Colombia to a peaceful, stable, post-conflict society.

Our new Embassy in Bogotá, which opened earlier this year, regularly meets with all relevant stakeholders, including our multilateral and civil society partners, to discuss the implementation of the peace accords and the human rights situation in the country, and has met with a number of former combatants, human rights defenders and social leaders. Having a permanent presence on the ground means we are better equipped to engage on these important issues.

Ireland has been, and continues to be, a longstanding and committed supporter of the peace process in Colombia. Ireland has provided over €14 million in funding since 2007, mainly channelled through the United Nations, and Colombian and international NGOs focusing on the areas of human rights, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and supporting livelihoods for rural populations.

Ireland was a founding member of the EU Trust Fund for Colombia and will contribute €3 million over the five-year lifespan of the Fund. The Fund finances projects targeted at the marginalised rural areas of Colombia which have been most affected by conflict, and works to support the reconciliation and social and economic reintegration of former combatants.

Ireland also provides funding to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Colombia, which works to support stabilisation in areas affected by the conflict, towards reincorporation of former combatants, and to support victims and systems of transitional justice, including by working to strengthen the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.  

As well as financial support, Ireland has also provided support in the form of lesson sharing based on our own experience of peacebuilding and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. My Department is very pleased to support former Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, in his role as EU Special Envoy to the Colombian peace process, in sharing his experience and insights into the process. Most recently, this month my Department shared lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process with Colombia by engaging with the Government in a series of discussions around the implementation of the peace accords. 

Not least among the lessons we have learnt in twenty years of implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is how long it takes to build peace and that it is not a linear process. We have seen how slow and painstaking the work is of building trust between communities and of enabling reconciliation and a culture of trust.

I firmly believe that Colombia’s peace accord provides the framework in which the endemic violence and impunity which has afflicted Colombian society for decades can successfully be addressed. Ireland remains committed to supporting the Government of Colombia in the implementation of the agreement and in addressing the challenges that inevitably lie ahead in such a momentous and historic chapter of the country's history. 

Central Bank of Ireland Staff

Ceisteanna (84, 85)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

84. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to continue with the appointment of a person (details supplied) as Governor of the Central Bank in advance of the conclusion of the investigation he is party to in New Zealand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24461/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

85. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the State has entered into a contractual commitment at this stage relating to the appointment of a person (details supplied) as Governor of the Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24462/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 85 together.

In my answer to PQ 23886/19, I have set out why it would not be appropriate for me or the Government to comment at this time on the investigation by the New Zealand State Services Commissioner into the unauthorised access of New Zealand Budget material and the events surrounding it.   

I understand that Mr. Makhlouf has agreed to the ongoing review as the best approach to establishing the facts of the matter.  He is continuing to work as usual in his role as CEO of the New Zealand Treasury. 

The appointment of the Governor of the Central Bank is provided for under section 19 (1) of the Central Bank Act 1942 (as amended). The Government recommended the appointment of Mr. Makhlouf as Governor of the Central Bank to the President following a comprehensive, open and international process.  The process included a public call for expressions of interest, a comprehensive search using independent executive search firm Merc Partners, a rigorous shortlisting of applicants, psychometric testing of final interview candidates, and a final interview of five candidates. 

Mr. Makhlouf was the recommendation of the independent interview panel. The President signed the warrant appointing Mr. Makhlouf to the role of Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland on 14 May 2019.  He is due to take up his role in September.

Mortgage Lending

Ceisteanna (86)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

86. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Central Bank deems a returning emigrant who never owned a residential property here but did abroad for a period of time as a non-first-time buyer; his views on whether this classification is unfair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24466/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

For the purposes of the Central Bank residential mortgage lending rules, a first time buyer is defined as a borrower to whom no housing loan has ever before been advanced. Where the borrower under a housing loan is more than one person and one or more of those persons has previously been advanced a housing loan, none of those persons is a first-time buyer. However, the Central Bank also introduced proportionate limits in their mortgage lending rules specifically to allow flexibility by lenders when assessing individual cases, such as may be the case in instances referred to in the Deputy’s question. The proportionate limits mean that lenders are able to make decisions based on the borrower’s circumstances up to a specific limit. Nevertheless, lenders will still be required to assess the borrower’s affordability and lend prudently on a case by case basis, in line with the requirements of the Consumer Protection Code and other relevant regulations.

Mortgage Data

Ceisteanna (87)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

87. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if mortgage arrears statistics of the Central Bank include instances in which commercial loans include either BTL properties or PDH properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24523/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I have been advised by the Central Bank of Ireland that their quarterly Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossessions Statistics only includes data on residential mortgages secured on property on Ireland. Loans for commercial purposes would not be included in the statistics.

Vehicle Registration

Ceisteanna (88)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

88. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the reason a car (details supplied) has not been returned to its owner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24538/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that contrary to the position as conveyed to the Deputy, the person concerned was not in possession of nor had he applied for an exemption from Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) when the vehicle concerned was seized by Revenue in February 2017.

In June 2017 Revenue wrote to the individual outlining the release terms for the vehicle which included the condition that the vehicle be registered in the State and that VRT be paid on the day the vehicle was released. Revenue Officers met with the individual by appointment in Tralee NCT Centre at the end of August 2017 but as a result of his failure to pay the VRT, the vehicle was not released to him. Despite three further letters from Revenue, the person concerned has failed to meet the terms for release of the vehicle in question.

I am advised by Revenue that if the person concerned wishes to have the vehicle released he must pay the VRT due. I am further advised that if he subsequently carries out works to the vehicle (in accordance with S.I. 353 of 1994) this would entitle him to an exemption under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme and at that point he should apply to Revenue for an exemption from VRT and for the refund of any residual VRT and VAT.

Central Bank of Ireland Enforcement Actions

Ceisteanna (89, 90)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

89. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the enforcement activity undertaken by the Central Bank on funds unregulated since the passing of the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2018; the number of instances in which the Central Bank has examined documentation from those funds; the number of instances the Central Bank has undertaken site visits; the funds visited in each case; the number of enforcement proceedings initiated against funds that were previously unregulated; the number of enforcement actions and fines imposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24539/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

90. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of funds that were previously deemed unregulated that have completed formal licensing from the Central Bank and are now regulated since the passing of the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2018; the number and value of mortgage and commercial loans owned by those entities; the number of funds still in the middle of the licensing process; the number and value of mortgage and commercial loans owned by those entities; the number that have not commenced the licensing process; the number and value of mortgage and commercial loans owned by those entities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24540/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 90 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2018 was enacted on 24 December 2018 and commenced on 21 January 2019 and amended Part V of the Central Bank Act 1997 to expand the activity of credit servicing to include holding the legal title to credit granted under a credit agreement and associated ownership activities (i.e. ‘determination of overall strategy for the management and administration of a portfolio of credit agreements’ and the ‘maintenance of control over key decisions relating to the portfolio’).

Persons seeking to avail of the transitional arrangements provided for under Section 34FA(1) of the Central Bank Act, 1997 (as amended) were required to have completed and submitted an application for authorisation to the Central Bank by 21 April 2019 in order to continue to engage in the newly regulated activities now falling within the scope of the Act, pending a decision on their application by the Central Bank.

The Central Bank is independent in the performance of its functions. I am informed by the Bank that it  has completed a review of the applications received by the 21 April 2019 statutory deadline from persons wishing to avail of the transitional provisions provided for in the Act to satisfy itself that the relevant persons have demonstrated that they meet the requirements to avail of these transitional provisions.  The Central Bank has updated its public register of Credit Servicing Firms to include details of the 37 persons who met the relevant requirements (i.e. each relevant person is recorded as being a ‘transitional firm’ on the Register of Credit Servicing Firms which is available on its website). 

I am informed that the Central Bank will now progress these applications to the assessment phase of the authorisation process where the Central Bank will assess each application to determine whether the relevant person has demonstrated that it meets the requirements set out in Part V, Chapter 3 of the 1997 Act, which include a requirement that the organisation of the person’s business structure is such that it is capable of being supervised adequately by the Central Bank, and the Authorisation Requirements and Standards for Credit Servicing Firms published by the Central Bank.  The Central Bank will also assess whether key persons in senior positions within the applicant have demonstrated that they meet the Fitness and Probity Standards. 

Once the assessment phase of the authorisation process is completed, an applicant will either be granted or refused authorisation and the public register of Credit Servicing Firms will be updated to reflect those firms who have been granted an authorisation. 

I should add that persons who are taken  to be  authorised pursuant to the transitional provisions provided for in Section 34FA(1) of the Act are considered to be ‘regulated financial service providers’ for the purposes of financial services legislation and are thus required to comply with any applicable requirements of financial services legislation, including without limitation:

- Part V of the Central Bank Act, 1997 (as amended);

- Consumer Protection Code, 2012;

- Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (Section 14) (Lending to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) Regulations 2015;

- Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (Section 48 (1)) Minimum Competency Regulations 2017 and Minimum Competency Code 2017;

- Central Bank Act 1942;

- Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, 2013;

- Fitness and Probity Regulations and Standards issued under Part 3 of the Central Bank Reform Act, 2010; and

- Authorisation Requirements and Standards for Credit Servicing Firms.

The Central Bank does not comment on individual applications or on its regulatory engagement with regulated entities so I am not in a position to comment on the details sought by the Deputy regarding its engagement.  The Bank has also confirmed that it does not share information on the numbers and values of mortgage and commercial loans owned by various categories of funds sought by the Deputy.

Central Bank of Ireland Data

Ceisteanna (91)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

91. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the Central Bank gathers data on the amount of foreign capital and credit provided or lent to Irish property developers; if so, the value provided or lent to property developers each year since 2011; the way in which this compares to the capital and credit provided and lent by Irish banks in those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

It was not possible for the Central Bank of Ireland to provide the information sought in the time available and, therefore, I will make arrangements to provide the information to the Deputy in line with Standing Orders.

Construction Industry

Ceisteanna (92)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

92. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his Department, the Central Bank or the National Treasury Management Agency has undertaken an analysis of the probability of foreign capital, credit and investment in the construction sector ceasing or being significantly curtailed; the potential mechanisms by which this would occur, both foreign and domestic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24578/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

My Department has not undertaken analysis of this nature, and I am not aware of any such analysis by either the Central Bank or the National Treasury Management Agency.

My Department’s assessments of the principal economic and fiscal risks are set out twice yearly in Stability Programme Update in April and in the Budget Economic and Fiscal Outlook in October each year.

It is not appropriate to speculate on the mechanisms by which the events suggested might occur. However, I would emphasise that economic activity, including investment, is best supported by policy certainty including the broad regulatory environment and prudent economic and fiscal policies.