Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (218)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

218. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the process at EU level to review the total area of hedgerows and non-forest woodland patches across the Irish landscape to be designated as a carbon sink. [27431/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals associated with land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), as reported in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, include activities such as grassland and cropland management under agricultural use. The definition of cropland, and separately grassland, includes associated hedgerows. While LULUCF emissions are not currently accounted for in relation to the calculation of compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets in the period to 2020, from 2021 onwards these emissions will be integrated into the EU framework for compliance with national emissions targets. It is, therefore, essential that Ireland has robust policies in place to manage emissions and enhance removals from relevant LULUCF sectoral categories.

Hedgerows and non-forest woodland patches are an important feature of the Irish pastoral landscape, due in part to their roles in biodiversity, agricultural management and potential carbon sequestration. In recognition of this, environmental payment schemes have included incentives for hedgerow plantation, maintenance and protection. The latest estimates suggest that the hedgerow length in Ireland is over 600,000 km. On the basis of the information available at the moment, hedgerows could potentially sequester somewhere in the region of 0.1 MtCO2 to 0.5 MtCO2. In order to refine the figures to allow for inclusion in the National GHG Inventory, further remote sensing investigations would be required to create a national detailed inventory of hedgerows. Furthermore, hedgerow surveys would be required to refine classifications and identify appropriate sites. Proposals for research along these lines are under consideration in the Environmental Protection Agency in the context of its 2019 research call.

I recently published the all of Government Climate Action Plan 2019, which includes 34 actions and associated time-bound steps to delivery, pertaining to Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use. Many of these actions will facilitate the development and implementation of policies to manage emissions and enhance removals from relevant LULUCF sectoral categories.

Television Licences Data

Ceisteanna (219)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

219. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of properties here that hold a television licence; the rate of non-compliance with the legislation; the number of persons prosecuted for not having a licence in each of the years 2013 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27276/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

A total of 1,038,986 licences were sold in 2018. In recent years the rate of compliance has increased from 84.5% in 2013 to 87.2% in 2018.

Under the Broadcasting Act, 2009, An Post is the designated agent, acting on my behalf, for the collection of the Television Licence fee. In line with the Act, An Post deals with all day to day operational matters of the current licence fee regime.

An Post makes every effort to bring evaders into the licensed pool and a considerable amount of time and resources are spent in dealing specifically with this issue. An Post concentrates its initial efforts on getting people to buy the licence when due and by following up with a series of reminder notices and inspector visits. Bringing people to court is a last resort and only carried out where all other means have failed.

The number of summons issued and cases brought to court between 2014 and 2018 are set out in the table under:

Year

Number of Summons applied for

Number of cases brought to court

2013

21,761

14,307

2014

20,877

13,976

2015

17,763

12,302

2016

17,608

11,994

2017

17,288

11,693

2018

16,120

10,234

The imposition and collection of fines for non-payment of TV licence fees are a matter for the Courts Service in conjunction with An Garda Síochána and An Post does not receive statistics on imposition and collection of fines from the Courts Service.

Electric Vehicle Grants

Ceisteanna (220)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

220. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to subvent or grant aid in a similar manner to that of an electric car the cost of an electric tractor for a suitable farming enterprise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27278/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The purchase of electric vehicles is supported by a grant of €5,000 for private purchases and €3,800 for the purchase by businesses. These grants apply to passenger cars (vehicle category M1) and vans (vehicle category N1). These are considered the categories of vehicle where electric vehicles provide the most viable alternative to the fossil fuel vehicles. While there are currently no plans to extend the grants beyond these vehicle categories, the supports for electric vehicles continue to be kept under review.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (221)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

221. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of e-fibre broadband roll-out to a location (details supplied). [27286/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The premises referenced by the Deputy is in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP.

This intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this.

The Government Decision of 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to the Bidder. This award is subject to contract close, including finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly that.

The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed. In the first year of roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations.

The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises at the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

Online Safety

Ceisteanna (222)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

222. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to protect children online; when major proposals for reform and legislation will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27298/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In early March, I announced that Government would address harmful online content through the development of new legislation, an Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, which will also transpose the revised Audio Visual Media Services Directive. I launched a public consultation on these proposals which concluded in April.

This Bill will establish, for the first time, a clear expectation for online platforms to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their users, especially children. It will provide for regulatory oversight of these measures by a robustly empowered Online Safety Commissioner. In preparing this legislation, I am conscious of the need to ensure an appropriate balance of the rights of relevant stakeholders, including freedom of expression.

I want to thank all those who contributed to the consultation, including NGOs, industry players, experts and member of the public. In total, 84 submissions have been received and these were published today on my Department's website. We are currently examining the issues raised to inform the development of this new legislation.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (223)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

223. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has considered updating the Electronic Commerce Act 2000 in view of the fact that it is nearly 20 years old; his plans to make changes to section 10 of the Act to better enable electronic signatures to be used for mortgages, the transfer of mortgages, wills, probates and so on; if he has introduced measures to enable a qualified electronic signature to be used here as specified under the European regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27436/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I keep legislation under my remit under review as appropriate. With respect to the Electronic Commerce Act 2000, I have the power to make Regulations to widen the scope of the Act to include laws set out at section 10(1), which were excluded at the time of enactment. These excluded laws include matters related to those highlighted by the Deputy.

In order to make such Regulations under section 10(2), certain criteria must be satisfied. I, as Minister, must have formed the opinion that technology has advanced sufficiently and is widely available; that adequate procedures and practices have developed; or that such a change would be in the public interest. I am also required to undertake consultation with such Ministers that, in my view, have interest or responsibility in relation to the laws currently excluded and in that regard it would not be appropriate for me to act unilaterally. It would be a matter for the relevant Minister in the first instance to propose that a change is required, and to indicate that the conditions set out section 10(2) can be satisfied, after which such a proposal would be considered by my Department.

As regards qualified electronic signatures, Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market provides a framework for the recognition of qualified electronic signatures and has direct effect in Ireland.

Park and Ride Facilities

Ceisteanna (224)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

224. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if a park and ride facility will be provided for commuters in Slane, County Meath (details supplied). [27212/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for the development and implementation of public transport and sustainable transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) , including the provision of Park and Ride facilities.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for a more detailed reply with regard to this particular project. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Road Improvement Schemes

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (225, 226)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

225. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if funding is available to improve the N68 road in County Clare, particularly in view of the importance of the road to the local tourism economy and the Wild Atlantic Way. [27271/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Robert Troy

Ceist:

226. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if funding is available to improve roads that are part of the Wild Atlantic Way. [27272/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads (RLR) is the statutory responsibility of each local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

Before the financial crisis, local authorities could apply on a regular basis for grants for Specific or Strategic Improvement Grants for the strengthening, widening or realignment of regional and local roads. However, the extent of the cutbacks in grant funding during the recession meant these grant schemes had to be curtailed after 2013 because expenditure on maintenance/renewal was falling well short of what was required to adequately maintain the regional and local road network.

Project Ireland 2040 does provide for the gradual build up in funding for the road network but it will take time. For this reason there is limited scope at present for funding projects under the Specific or Strategic Grant Programme.

Any projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under these Grant Programmes are assessed by the Department on a case-by-case basis. All projects put forward by local authorities for consideration must comply with the requirements of the Public Spending Code and my Department's Capital Appraisal Framework and it is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind.

It is important to reiterate that the role of Exchequer grants for regional and local roads is to supplement local authorities in their spending in this area and it is open to local authorities to fund works on these roads from its own resources. It is also open to the local authorities to undertake rehabilitation works on these roads under their Restoration Improvement Grant programmes.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred your questions to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Dublin Bus Fleet

Ceisteanna (227)

John Curran

Ceist:

227. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of low-emission buses that will be added to the bus fleet in Dublin during the remainder of 2019 and 2020 to 2022; if they will be hybrid or electric; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27281/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for public transport infrastructure, including the purchase of buses for the PSO bus fleets.

In terms of policy, my Department has funded trials of various different technologies for low emission buses in both Dublin and Cork in recent months. The outcome of these trials will inform our medium and longer term policy as regards the most appropriate type of low emission buses for our urban PSO bus fleets and that policy will guide the procurement strategy to be adopted by the NTA.

In the meantime, and in line with the commitment made in Project Ireland 2040, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has ended the purchase of diesel-only buses and has advertised its intention to enter into a new procurement framework agreement for hybrid buses.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question in relation to specific bus numbers to it for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

Ceisteanna (228)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

228. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of an appeal by a club (details supplied) to the decision not to grant it funding for equipment as part of the sports capital grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27236/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The 2018 round of the Sports Capital Programme closed for applications on Friday 19th October last. By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162m in funding.

186 of these applications were for projects that were deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme that subsequently submitted corrected documents. These applications were assessed first and approximately €7m in allocations to 170 projects were announced on the 17th January.

619 "equipment only" applications were assessed next and 466 allocations with a value of €9.8m were announced in May. All unsuccessful "equipment only" applications were invited to appeal the decision to not award them a grant and the deadline for submitting these appeals was Tuesday last (25th June). I can confirm that the organisation referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal and my Department is currently reviewing all of the appeals received. I expect that all organisations will be notified of the outcome of their appeal in the coming weeks.

Road Improvement Schemes

Ceisteanna (229)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

229. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the capital expenditure from 1 January to 30 April 2019 under the heading of B3, road improvement and maintenance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27292/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by Exchequer road grants.

The Regional and Local Road payment booklets available in the Oireachtas library provide details of grant payments made by my Department to the end of 2018. The 2019 Regional and Local Road allocation booklet outlines the allocations for this year and the table below outlines the Exchequer capital grants paid out to end April this year.

Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, construction and maintenance of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. The table below also shows the Exchequer capital grants paid to TII to the end of April in relation to national roads.

National Roads

Paid to end April 2019 €

Capital Expenditure (including PPP contractual payments)

51,573,721

Regional and Local Roads

Paid to end April 2019 €

Capital Expenditure

31,044,014

Sport Ireland Funding

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (230)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

230. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding available to a club (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27370/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, increasing participation at all levels and raising standards, including the allocation of funding across its various programmes.

I have referred the Deputy's question to Sport Ireland for direct reply in relation to funding. I would ask the Deputy to inform my office if a reply is not received within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (231)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

231. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if childcare providers are entitled to apply a cap on the number of children in their services under the community childcare subvention scheme and request that parents whose children qualify for the scheme pay full fees for those children. [27283/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Registration for the Community Childcare Subvention programme (CCS) is specifically based on actual attendance of a child in the service during a snapshot window. For the 2018/2019 programme year, this was from the 17th September to 12th October 2018.

While there is no specific cap on the number of CCS children in a service, service provider's are subject to the ratios as outlined in the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016.

The service manager must agree with parents/guardians the number of days and the pattern of attendance that the child will be availing of prior to registering the child for a CCS place. A record of this agreement must be maintained by the childcare provider.

A funding allocation is given to the service provider for the year based on the number of children in attendance as per their attendance records during this snapshot period. This allocation cannot increase after the snapshot period.

Therefore, a child cannot be registered on CCS after the snapshot window has closed except in circumstances where a CCS eligible child can replace a child funded under the CCS programme who has left the service.

There are alternative childcare schemes available however and I would advise any parent to contact their local City/County Childcare Committee for further information and assistance.

Departmental Programmes

Ceisteanna (232)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

232. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will address a matter regarding the login credentials of a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Officials from my Department contacted the service provider in question.

It is my understanding that the issue has been resolved and the service provider can now verify their login credentials.

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (233)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

233. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans in place to address the downturn in numbers of children attending community sessional playschools in north-east County Galway in view of the fact that sustainability issues will be further exacerbated in October 2019 when the national childcare scheme launches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27395/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Community Childcare settings provide a valuable service to children and families across the country, including the provision of vital services to vulnerable families in areas of disadvantage.

Over the last four budgets, my Department has increased funding for early learning and care and school age childcare by 117%. A significant proportion of this funding has been targeted at families who use community childcare services, thus assisting with the sustainability issues faced by some services.

The National Childcare Scheme will further increase investment in childcare and will reduce the top-up many parents have to pay for their childcare. This will have corresponding benefits especially for community providers. The National Childcare Scheme is also expected to increase demand for services, thereby supporting community services to operate efficiently and at full capacity.

The National Childcare Scheme, when introduced in October, will represent a major landmark for children and families in Ireland. It entails a fundamental shift away from subsidies grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and towards a comprehensive and progressive system of universal and income-based subsidies. By making this shift, and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland, the Scheme aims to expand access, improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay and reduce child poverty. It is also designed to have a positive impact on gender equality in relation to labour market participation and employment opportunities.

A core design feature of the National Childcare Scheme is that “money follows the child”. Once a parent has been approved for a subsidy, they should be able to choose any registered childcare provider participating in the scheme, subject to availability, and the subsidy would then be paid directly to that provider. There could be concerns that this could reduce the sustainability of community services by increasing choice of provider. However, the underlying reasons for financial stability problems faced by some community providers do not rest with the nature of the funding model but with a wide range of other factors. Examples of these may include the current inability of some parents to pay the level of fees asked of them, the broader range of family supports provided by some services in disadvantaged communities and the particular business models operated by certain services. By creating a clearer, more flexible and more user-friendly scheme, which explicitly links funding to parental income and to the costs of provision, it is intended that the National Childcare Scheme will offer a vehicle for addressing some of these concerns.

For services which are facing financial sustainability challenges, my Department oversees an integrated Case Management system operated by Pobal. This Case Management service provides non-financial assistance or support in the first instance. Financial supports are also available for community services facing certain challenges which may also be accessed through Case Management following a financial assessment.

In addition, my Department has commissioned an independent Sustainability Review to examine the financial situation of a selection of community childcare services in some of the most disadvantaged areas in Ireland, taking account of the future introduction of the National Childcare Scheme. I expect to receive this analysis very shortly which will inform any necessary refinements or enhancements to the National Childcare Scheme or, indeed, any other policy responses which may be appropriate. In the interim, arrangements are in place to ensure that no one loses out and that families can continue to access their current targeted supports as we transition to the new Scheme.