Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (136)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

136. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of his meeting with his Russian counterpart; the outcome of the recent Ireland-Russia Joint Economic Commission; if he raised the issue of alleged interference from Russian sources in recent elections during the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29430/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I met with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow on 2 July. Agenda items for our consultations included our bilateral political and economic relations, as well as a range of regional and international issues such as the situation in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, the Middle East Peace Process, Iran, non-proliferation, the Council of Europe, human rights, cyber-security, disinformation, and Brexit.

Ireland supports the EU strategy of maintaining dialogue with Russia on issues of mutual interest. Ongoing engagement with Russia bilaterally and in multilateral fora such as the UN, Council of Europe, OSCE and through EU-Russia dialogue on key global challenges as well as regional conflicts is critical, especially where it can contribute to a relationship with a Russia that is underpinned by a commitment to the rule of law and international standards.

We discussed the outcome of the 12th Plenary Session of the Ireland-Russia Joint Economic Commission, held in Moscow on 10 April 2019. The JEC is a bilateral Government to Government entity which promotes economic and trade activity between the two countries within six working groups comprising of Education and Training; ICT/High Technology; Agriculture and Food; Energy and Renewable Energy; Aviation and Transport, and Trade and Economic Cooperation. The Irish delegation in April was led by Minister of State Cannon and included officials from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Education and Skills; Business, Enterprise and Innovation, along with Enterprise Ireland and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland. At my meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov we noted the encouraging economic growth in our bilateral trade, which rose by more than 30% in 2018, and the prospects for further development of bilateral trade in education services, agriculture, transport, innovation and the digital economy.

Departmental Expenditure

Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 125.

Ceisteanna (137)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

137. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the costs paid to companies (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by his Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason each was engaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29444/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for two votes - Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs and Trade) and Vote 27 (International Cooperation).

The Department seeks to minimise expenditure on consultants and commissions external expertise only in cases where highly specialised skills are not available internally. During the course of engagement, these consultants and experts may prepare reports and other analysis or documentation for the Department. The detail in relation to the companies referred to is set out in the table below.

Year

Company

Project

Cost

(€)

2015

Mazars

Audit of IT Security and Disaster Recovery Systems (part I)

€23,072

2016

Mazars

Audit of IT Security and Disaster Recovery Systems (part II)

€1,648

2019

Mazars

Support to ICT Audit:(ICT Security, ICT Governance, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery)

€13,390

In addition to the payments made to the company a total of €7,400 was paid in Withholding Tax to the Revenue Commissioners in respect of these payments.

Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 125.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (139)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

139. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the costs paid to a company (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by his Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason it was engaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29553/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In 2016, my Department made a payment to Deloitte of €8,034 for an ICT licence renewal.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (140)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

140. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action that will be taken by the EU following reports that 40 persons have been killed after an air strike hit a detention centre in Libya; the efforts being made to protect and safeguard refugees being detained in alleged appalling conditions in Libya; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29600/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I was shocked to learn of the attack on the detention centre in Tajoura, Libya, last week. Attacks against civilians, including refugees and migrants, are totally unacceptable, and contrary to International Humanitarian Law. On 3 July, I issued a statement condemning the attack, and supporting the calls of the EU and the UN for an investigation into the facts of what may well constitute a war crime.

All EU Member States have condemned in the strongest terms this attack in a statement issued on 5 July. EU Member States welcomed any fact-finding mission undertaken by the UN into the attack, called for an end to fighting in Libya, urged parties to return to the UN led mediation process, and reminded all Libyan parties of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. EU Member States also expressed our readiness to urgently step up collective efforts to address the situation, and in particular, to improve protection and assistance to migrants and refugees.

As I said in my statement last week, this tragic event underlines the fact that the system of detention centres in Libya is completely unsuitable for migrants, and puts them at risk. Ireland and the EU’s position is that Libya’s system of detaining migrants must end, and that migration must be managed in full compliance with international law. In the meantime, the EU has been working to provide life-saving support to migrants and refugees in detention.

The EU has mobilised €318 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for the protection of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people in Libya, and to provide support to local communities to cope with the migration challenge. Throughout the conflict in Libya, the EU has cooperated with the UNHCR and IOM, which have staff on the ground in Libya, to provide protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants and refugees in detention centres and elsewhere. We have successfully evacuated refugees and migrants from detention centres near the frontline, and, where possible, have enabled them to find safety outside Libya, including in the Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger, with a view to their resettlement. Through our cooperation with the UN and the African Union, the EU has helped over 45,000 migrants stranded in Libya to return to their countries of origin, and has evacuated close to 4,000 persons in need of international protection. However, many more people remain at risk, and the EU will continue to work with its partners to relocate them to safe places swiftly to receive assistance.

Unfortunately, political fragmentation and the fragile security situation in Libya limit the capacity of the international community to access all areas where migrants are located, or to influence the situation on the ground. Ultimately, ensuring adequate treatment of migrants and refugees will require restoration of political stability, and a fully functioning Libyan Government. Ireland and the EU continue to support the efforts of the UN Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, to bring this about. All Libyans, and all international parties, should give their full support to the UN-led political efforts, and parties should ensure that they follow through on commitments made during the talks. This is the only way to ensure that civilians in Libya, including migrants and refugees, are protected.

Passport Applications Administration

Ceisteanna (141)

Hildegarde Naughton

Ceist:

141. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the roll-out of online renewal for children’s passports since the project commenced in November 2018; the number of online child applications by county since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29631/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The award-winning Online Passport Renewal Service was launched in March 2017 and offers the convenience of an online application system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for Irish citizens anywhere in the world.

In November 2018, the Online Passport Renewal Service was expanded to include the online renewal of children’s passports, to introduce a passport card for children, and to expand the cohort of adults eligible to renew online.

Since the expansion of the service last year, 71,384 online passport applications for children have been submitted. The table below details the county of residence of the applicants for those same applications submitted who were resident on the island of Ireland at the time of application.

County

Applications

DUBLIN

17,602

CORK

5,852

KILDARE

3,444

MEATH

3,142

GALWAY

3,025

LIMERICK

2,117

WICKLOW

2,096

LOUTH

1,775

WEXFORD

1,663

DONEGAL

1,650

TIPPERARY

1,612

CLARE

1,427

ANTRIM

1,362

WATERFORD

1,337

MAYO

1,322

KERRY

1,225

DOWN

1,121

KILKENNY

1,090

WESTMEATH

960

DERRY

846

LAOIS

816

CAVAN

778

ROSCOMMON

714

OFFALY

664

SLIGO

657

CARLOW

600

MONAGHAN

593

TYRONE

545

ARMAGH

412

LEITRIM

377

LONGFORD

335

FERMANAGH

147

BELFAST

11

TOTAL

61,317

The online service brings significant benefits for citizens with faster turnaround times of 10 working days for all online applications, excluding postage. In addition, the cost of renewing a passport online is significantly cheaper than alternative methods, with fees for all online applications being reduced by €5 across all application types.

Public feedback with regard to the ease of use and accessibility of the website and with regard to the 10 day turnaround time has been hugely positive. Last month, the online child passport renewal website won a UX (User Experience design) Award for “Innovation in UX”. The awards celebrate achievement in the Irish user experience sector.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (142)

Hildegarde Naughton

Ceist:

142. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which the passport service is dealing with the increased demand for passports due to Brexit to date in 2019; the plans of the service to deal with the various Brexit scenarios over the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29632/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The demand for Irish passports has grown significantly in recent years. The Passport Service issued over 780,000 passports in 2017, over 822,000 passports in 2018 and so far this year, over 490,000 passports have been issued.

The increase in demand for Irish passports is driven by a number of factors including a general increase in the number of Irish residents travelling abroad and a growing population. There has also been a significant increase in passport applications from applicants in Northern Ireland and in Britain since the UK Referendum on EU membership in June 2016.

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

My Department continues to closely monitor the level of passport demand to ensure that all resources, including staffing, are effectively deployed to meet the ongoing anticipated strong demand for Irish passports.

At the end of 2018, the Passport Service employed 363 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 queries from the general public.

A new Customer Service Hub was established in January 2019 to ensure that the Passport Service is equipped to deal with the large volume of queries received through its phone and webchat services. The Passport Service is currently handling approximately 5000 calls and 3800 webchats per week. Thanks to this dedicated customer service team, we are able to quickly resolve most queries at the first point of contact.

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 was introduced in March 2017 and expanded in November 2018 to allow for the renewal of children's passports and to expand the cohort of adults eligible to renew online.

The online service brings significant benefits to citizens with faster turnaround times at a lower cost. 45% of all applications received in 2019 have been online applications and over 60% of those eligible to use the online application channel have done so. The online service has been instrumental in the efficient management of overall passport operations and in allowing the Passport Service to allocate staff resources more efficiently to cope with unprecedented demand.

To assist with forecasting future demand for Irish passports, my Department has commissioned research to better understand the potential demand for passports from Irish citizens in the United Kingdom who have not yet applied for a passport. Interim reports have been provided and in 2019 an additional forecasting report was commissioned which sought to update and revise projected demand estimates up to mid-2023. This research will assist the Passport Service in formulating plans on resource requirements for the future.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (143)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

143. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has met the newly appointed United States ambassador to Ireland recently; and if so, the issues that were discussed. [29526/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government and I were pleased to receive confirmation on 27th June last that the new US Ambassador to Ireland, Edward Crawford, had been sworn into his new role by US Vice President Pence. Ambassador Crawford then travelled to Ireland and presented his credentials to President Higgins on 01 July. My colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan T.D., attended this ceremony on behalf of the Government, as did officials of my Department.

While I have not yet had the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Crawford, I look forward to doing so in the near future. Ireland’s relationship with the US is one of our closest and most important. We share many common values, as well as a shared history, which allows for comprehensive engagement on a wide range of issues of mutual concern. In this regard, I look forward to meeting with the Ambassador to update him on a number of topical issues, including the Northern Ireland talks process, the challenges posed for the island of Ireland by the UK exit from the EU, and Ireland's role as a bridge between the US and the EU.

The Taoiseach met with Ambassador Crawford at the US Embassy Independence Day reception on the evening of 03 July last. The Taoiseach took the opportunity to welcome Ambassador Crawford to Ireland and spoke with him about his work in the coming years.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (144)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

144. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount spent on tribunals, commissions of investigation and statutory inquiries in each of the years 2009 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by inquiry, tribunal or commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29834/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department had no tribunals, commissions of investigation or statutory inquiries in the years 2009 to 2018 and to date in 2019.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (145)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

145. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department has ceased the purchase and use of single-use plastics; the public bodies and agencies under his remit to which he has issued an instruction to cease the purchase and use of single-use plastics; when the instruction issued; the bodies that have confirmed that they no longer purchase and use single-use plastics, respectively; the bodies that have not provided such confirmation to date; when they will confirm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29986/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department has ceased the purchase and use of single-use plastics as per the directive issued by the Department of Communications, Climate action and the Environment on 3rd January 2019. There are no public bodies or agencies under my remit.

Banking Sector Regulation

Ceisteanna (146)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

146. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if the Central Bank has engaged with banks over their interpretation of EU regulations regarding the imposition of break fees; if so, the nature and result of such engagements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29070/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Central Bank of Ireland has advised me that it has checked the methodologies applied by lenders to calculate fixed rate breakage fees on mortgages subject to the European Union (Consumer Mortgage Credit Agreements) Regulations 2016 and has seen no evidence of material failings in this regard.

In addition the Central Bank has stated that it cannot comment specifically on the compliance by individual financial service providers with their obligations under financial services legislation due to the Central Bank’s confidentiality obligations and the requirement to apply fair procedures. However, the Central Bank has advised that it has intervened with a small number of lenders to ensure that the information provided to consumers on fixed rate breakage fees is clear and transparent.

VAT Rate Application

Ceisteanna (147, 148)

Pat Buckley

Ceist:

147. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Finance the dates since January 1991 on which the Revenue Commissioners published advice to the effect that the zero VAT rate for food supplements was specifically restricted to vitamins, minerals and fish oils by concession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29106/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Buckley

Ceist:

148. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Finance the date on which the Revenue Commissioners first publicised it had been operating a zero VAT rate concession to food supplements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29107/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 148 together.

VAT legislation does not apply the zero rate of VAT to food supplements but shortly after the introduction of VAT Revenue applied a concessionary zero rating to certain vitamin, mineral and fish oil products.

As the market developed over the years this treatment resulted in the zero rating by Revenue of further similar products, including products other than vitamins, minerals and fish oils, and these rulings were published in Revenue’s VAT rates database. The evolution of the scope of the concessionary treatment of certain types of food supplements was well understood by the industry and by agents representing clients in the food supplements sector and has never been disputed by Revenue. Revenue has referenced the original scope of its zero rating concession but acknowledged that the scope had broadened progressively over time to the point that it had become increasingly difficult to maintain an effective distinction between food supplements that could benefit from the zero rate and those that were standard rated. After undertaking a comprehensive review of the VAT treatment of food supplements, including getting an expert report on the definition of food for the purposes of the VAT Consolidation Act, Revenue concluded that the status quo was no longer sustainable and engaged with my Department concerning policy options that might be considered in the context of Finance Bill 2018. The relevant legislation was not changed in Finance Bill 2018 and therefore Revenue issued new guidance in December 2018 which removed the concessionary zero rating of various food supplement products with effect from 1 March 2019.

Following representation from Deputies and from the industry I wrote to Revenue outlining my plans to examine the policy and legislative options for the taxation of food supplement products in the context of Finance Bill 2019. Revenue responded by delaying the withdrawal of its concessionary zero rating of the food supplement products concerned until 1 November 2019. This will allow time for the enactment of any legislative changes in the context of Budget 2020.

My Department has recently concluded a public consultation on the taxation of food supplement products. The consultation sought input from a wide range of interested parties, including health and nutrition experts as well as my colleague the Minister for Health, to ensure that any legislative changes brought forward are evidence based. Officials in my department are considering the submissions received and the outcome will be presented to the Tax Strategy Group (TSG) on 9th July. The TSG Papers will be published on the Department's website shortly afterwards.

Revenue Commissioners Staff

Ceisteanna (149)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

149. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons the Revenue Commissioners recruited since January 2019, by grade and county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29144/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Revenue is an integrated tax and customs administration. I am advised that Revenue has appointed 615 staff from open and interdepartmental competitions since the start of 2019. Of these, almost 400 were assigned to customs roles or to backfill positions from which existing staff were assigned to customs roles in preparation for Brexit, with the balance assigned to other Revenue functions. Resources are deployed based on business needs.

Table 1: Revenue staff appointed by grade from 1 January to 30 June 2019

Grade

PO

AP

HEO/AO

EO

CO

Service Officer

Total

Number

3

29

71

119

389

4

615

Table 2: Revenue staff appointed by location from 1 January to 30 June 2019

Location

Total

Dublin

346

Leinster (excluding Dublin and Louth)

38

Munster

191

BMW

40

Total

615

Tax Yield

Ceisteanna (150, 151)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

150. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the estimated revenue that would be raised if the air travel tax was reinstated at a rate of €5 per passenger, including exemptions for disabled passengers and cabin crew. [29148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

151. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the estimated revenue that would be raised if the air travel tax was reinstated at a rate of €5 per passenger with no exemptions. [29149/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 151 together.

I am advised by Revenue that based on the number of departing passengers in 2018 as published by the Central Statistics Office (18,300,561), the expected revenue generated would be €91.5 million, if charged at a rate of €5 per passenger. There is no information available in respect of the number of disabled passengers and cabin crew to calculate the proposed exemptions.

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Ceisteanna (152)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

152. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his views on concerns raised by the Ombudsman relating to persons being denied access to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme on the basis that they have been refused primary medical certificates and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29162/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, payment of a Fuel Grant, and an exemption from Motor Tax.

To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must satisfy one of the following conditions:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The Scheme represents a significant tax expenditure. Between the Vehicle Registration Tax and VAT foregone, and the fuel grant, the scheme cost €65m in each of 2016 and 2017, rising to €70m in 2018. This figure does not include the revenue foregone in respect of the relief from Motor Tax provided to members of the Scheme.

I understand and fully sympathise with any person who suffers from a serious physical disability and can’t access the scheme under the current criteria. However, given the scope and scale of the scheme, any possible changes to it can only be made after careful consideration, taking into account the existing and prospective cost of the scheme as well as the availability of other schemes which seek to help with the mobility of disabled persons, and the interaction between each of these schemes.

Accordingly, I have no plans to amend the qualifying medical criteria for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme at this time.

Brexit Staff

Ceisteanna (153)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

153. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number recruited by the Revenue Commissioners to deal with Brexit-related issues in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by grade and county in tabular form; the number expected to be recruited to such roles in the immediate future; if a posting represented a new role; if not, if it was for the purpose of replacing staff and filling an existing position in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29181/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that no additional resources were recruited to Revenue in 2016 for Brexit. Following the decision of the UK in June 2016 to leave the EU, Revenue began a review of potential policy and operational implications and that work was undertaken within the then existing resources.

Budget 2017 provided Revenue with resources for an additional 40 staff to prepare for Brexit. This included provision to upgrade ICT systems to manage the anticipated increase in Customs transactions; and for additional staff to put in place and to facilitate the necessary training and upskilling arrangements for staff still to be recruited.

In the context of extensive and detailed Brexit preparedness and contingency work across all Government Departments and Agencies, Revenue determined that in a ‘Central Case’ scenario (i.e. an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU, to include a transition period until the end of 2020), an additional 600 Revenue staff would be required. In September 2018, the Government granted approval in principle for the phased recruitment of an additional 600 Revenue staff to meet the challenges posed by Brexit.

Budget 2019 provided Revenue with an additional €10 million pay provision, for 270 of the additional 600 staff to be recruited during 2019. Following a Government decision in December 2018, it was agreed to accelerate Revenue’s recruitment programme in preparation for Brexit.

Since the start of 2019, Revenue has appointed over 600 staff from open recruitment, interdepartmental and internal competitions. The majority of these have been assigned to customs roles or to backfill positions from which existing Revenue staff have been assigned to customs duties. As serving staff are taking up their new Brexit-related positions, Revenue is backfilling the vacancies created, from panels of candidates established in its general recruitment activity.

In the period from 2017 to date, Revenue has assigned over 450 additional staff to customs related roles, deployed across a range of functions, with the majority assigned to import and export trade facilitation activities and policy and operational roles. Resources are deployed based on the evolving business needs and to tackle any risks as they emerge. The following tables provide a breakdown of these additional staff.

Table 1: Additional staff assigned in preparation for Brexit in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to date

Grade/Year

PO

AP

HEO/AO

EO

CO

Total

2017

0

2

5

8

3

18

2018

0

1

5

10

49

65

2019

1

6

33

129

201

370

Total

1

9

43

147

253

453

Table 2: Additional staff assigned in preparation for Brexit by location in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to date.

Location

2017

2018

2019

Total

Dublin

12

56

213

281

Leinster (excluding Dublin and Louth)

0

0

40

40

Munster

6

9

104

119

BMW (in Donegal, Galway, Louth, Sligo)

0

0

13

13

Total

18

65

370

453

Revenue will continue to adjust its recruitment and training plans in response to business needs, including Brexit-related developments.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (154)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

154. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the tax schemes, incentives, exemptions and other forms of tax measures that have sunset clauses; the annual cost of the measures based on the latest data; the dates on which the measures are set to expire; if the continuation of the measures is factored into the base in the summer economic statement in each of the years 2020 to 2024; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29204/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

It was not possible to collate the information sought in the time available and, therefore, I will make arrangements to provide the information to the Deputy as soon as possible and in line with Standing Orders.

Cycle to Work Scheme

Ceisteanna (155)

John Curran

Ceist:

155. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Finance if an amendment will be made to the cycle to work scheme to allow a person who had his or her bike stolen make a second claim during the five-year period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29206/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The purpose of the cycle to work scheme, introduced by the Finance (No. 2) Act 2008, is to encourage more employees to cycle to and from work, or between work places, thereby contributing to lowering carbon emissions, reducing traffic congestion and improving health and fitness levels. Under the scheme an employer may provide an employee with a bicycle and/or cycle safety equipment without the employee being liable for benefit-in-kind taxation. However, where the expenditure by the employer exceeds €1,000, the excess amount is liable to tax.

The legislation only allows for one purchase of a bicycle in respect of an employee in a five-year period irrespective of whether the bicycle was used for the full period or not. It operates on a self-assessing basis using straightforward rules. Any deviation from the current system would involve additional administrative procedures for either or both Revenue and employers in relation to the verification of loss, theft, insurance recovery, etc. As this runs counter to the existing provisions which are administratively simple, it would not be appropriate to alter the existing scheme.

Anyone obtaining a bicycle under the scheme would therefore be advised to ensure it is covered by insurance.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (156)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

156. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent on tribunals, commissions of investigation and statutory inquiries in each of the years 2009 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by year, inquiry, tribunal or commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29234/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The amount my Department spent on tribunals, commissions of investigation and statutory inquiries in each of the years 2009 to 2018 and to date in 2019 are in tabular form below.

Year

IBRC Commission of Investigation

Banking Inquiry

2019

€81,137.70

Nil

2018

€29,769.26

Nil

2017

€54,436.50

Nil

2016

€27,180.63

€34,348

2015

€223,724.55

€208,013

State Aid Investigations

Ceisteanna (157)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

157. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the amount accrued in interest on €13.1 billion since it was lodged to an escrow account (details supplied); his plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29267/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Notwithstanding the appeal in the Apple State aid case and the difference in view between Ireland and the Commission on the issue, the Government has always stated that it is fully committed to complying with the binding legal obligations the Commission’s Final Decision places on Ireland. The State recovered the alleged State aid from Apple. The total amount lodged to the Escrow Fund was circa €14.285 billion (representing the principal amount and relevant EU interest).

The Department of Finance recently published the financial statements for the Escrow Fund for 2018 which are available at the following link - https://www.gov.ie/en/news/9237ee-cover-note-on-financial-statements-of-ireland-apple-escrow-fund/

The financial statements illustrate that the net assets of the Escrow Fund as at 31 December 2018 totalled €14.269 billion, representing a decline in value of €16 million. This decline in value for the Escrow Fund reflects the current negative interest rate environment as illustrated by the consistent negative official ECB Overnight Deposit rate (-0.4%) and negative yields on highly rated euro-sovereign and quasi-sovereign bonds.

The arrangements in the Escrow Framework Deed include the agreement that all claims of ownership and access to this money is suspended until the European Courts have concluded the proceedings that the Government and Apple have brought. In general terms, all income/expenses, including any gains or losses will accrue to the Escrow Fund. The final proceeds of the Escrow Fund will only be released when there has been a final determination in the European Courts over the validity of the Commission’s Decision.

Land Transfers

Ceisteanna (158)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

158. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the transfer of approximately one acre of land from a person to a sibling as a site to build a house; and the implications from his Department and the Revenue Commissioners' points of view for such transfers on both parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29308/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the transfer of one acre of land by a person to a sibling to build a house on that land constitutes a disposal of the land for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes. Any gain arising on the transfer of the land is liable to CGT for the person making the disposal. The first €1,270 of gains made by an individual in a tax year are exempt from CGT.

Relief from CGT is available for a transfer of land by a parent to his or her child to enable the child to build a house on the land provided certain conditions are met. This relief does not apply to transfers between siblings.

The transfer of land where no consideration has been paid for the land, or where any consideration paid was less than its full market value, could result in a gift tax liability for the sibling receiving the gift. For gift tax purposes, the relationship between the person who provides the gift and the person who receives the gift (i.e. the beneficiary) determines the life-time tax-free threshold - known as the Group threshold, below which inheritance tax does not arise. In the case of the gift between siblings, the Group B threshold (currently €32,500) applies, inter alia, where the beneficiary is a brother or sister of the disponer.

Any prior gift or inheritance received by a beneficiary since 5 December 1991 from within the same Group threshold is aggregated for the purposes of determining whether any tax is payable on a benefit. Where a person receives gifts which are in excess of their relevant tax-free threshold, gift tax at a rate of 33% applies on the excess over the tax-free threshold.

As the transfer of land constitutes both a disposal for CGT purposes and a gift for gift tax purposes, a credit is given for any CGT paid against a gift tax liability in respect of the same land.

Stamp duty at the rate of 6% of the market value applies on the transfer of land. In this case the duty would be payable by the sibling receiving the land. However, there is a refund scheme in place in respect of the acquisition of land that is then developed for residential purposes. A refund of up to 2/3 of the stamp duty paid may be claimed where a house is built on the land and other qualifying conditions for the relief are met. A fixed timeframe for the commencement and completion of building work applies; construction work must commence within 30 months of the land being transferred and the house must be completed within two years of the commencement of construction.

Departmental Advertising Data

Ceisteanna (159)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

159. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent on digital marketing in each of the past eight years; the items on which funds were spent; the criteria by which target audiences were selected; the amount of the digital spend targeted here; the amount targeted abroad; the amount that related to private companies; the amount that related to policy initiatives; and the purpose of the digital advertisements. [29392/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The amount my Department spent on digital marketing in each of the past eight years; the items on which funds were spent; the criteria by which target audiences were selected; the amount of the digital spend targeted here; the amount targeted abroad; the amount that related to private companies; the amount that related to policy initiatives; and the purpose of the digital advertisements is outlined in the attachment document.

Year

Supplier

Amount spent on digital marketing

Items on which funds were spent

The criteria by which target audiences were selected

The amount of the digital spend targeted here

The amount of the digital spend targeted abroad

The amount that related to private companies

The amount that related to policy initiatives

The purpose of the digital advertisements

2015

Carr Communications

€37,018.30 (Incl VAT)

Mortgage Arrears Communication Campaign (digital marketing was included but it is not possible to provide a breakdown of how much of the contract was specifically digital marketing).

Those in mortgage arrears.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount.

A Government Decision on mortgage arrears in May 2015, and under the direction of the Cabinet Committee on Construction 2020, Housing Planning & Mortgage Arrears, the Department was tasked with the coordination of a communications campaign to publicise State-funded services for borrowers in mortgage arrears.

The coordination of a communications campaign to publicise State-funded services for borrowers in mortgage arrears.

2016

Carr Communications

€73,135.76 (Incl VAT)

Mortgage Arrears Communication Campaign (digital marketing was included but it is not possible to provide a breakdown of how much of the contract was specifically digital marketing).

Those in mortgage arrears.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount.

A Government Decision on mortgage arrears in May 2015, and under the direction of the Cabinet Committee on Construction 2020, Housing Planning & Mortgage Arrears, the Department was tasked with the coordination of a communications campaign to publicise State-funded services for borrowers in mortgage arrears.

The coordination of a communications campaign to publicise State-funded services for borrowers in mortgage arrears.

2017

2017

Language Communications Ltd

Twitter

Twitter

€421,460.42 (Incl VAT) (this figure includes €28,000 for web development)

European Financial Forum (EFF) €24.60

Switch your Bank €73.80

Total:€98.40 including VAT

Research,

Creative,

Web Development,

Project Management,

Media Buys

1 x Tweets

4 x Tweets

Consumers in the Irish financial services market

Location – Ireland

Location – Ireland

Unable to disaggregate from total amount. The campaign is targeted at any consumers in the Irish financial services market whether at home or abroad.

100%

100%

Unable to disaggregate from total amount. The campaign is targeted at any consumers in the Irish financial services market whether at home or abroad.

Nil

Nil

All

Nil

Nil

€24.60

€73.80

Public awareness campaign Switch Your Bank. As part of a range of competition measures agreed with the European Commission under their respective EU-Restructuring plans AIB and Permanent TSB are required to provide funding to a public awareness campaign (such campaign to be facilitated by Ireland through an appropriate state body) to raise awareness and promote customer switching of financial products.

Awareness of European Financial Forum

Awareness of the Switch your Bank Campaign

2018

Language Communications Ltd

€402,210.00 (Incl VAT)

Creative,

Web Development,

Project Management,

Media Buys

Consumers in the Irish financial services market

Unable to disaggregate from total amount. The campaign is targeted at any consumers in the Irish financial services market whether at home or abroad.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount. The campaign is targeted at any consumers in the Irish financial services market whether at home or abroad.

All

Public awareness campaign Switch Your Bank. As part of a range of competition measures agreed with the European Commission under their respective EU-Restructuring plans AIB and Permanent TSB are required to provide funding to a public awareness campaign (such campaign to be facilitated by Ireland through an appropriate state body) to raise awareness and promote customer switching of financial products.

2019

Language Communications Ltd

€2,066.40 (Incl VAT)

Web Hosting

Consumers in the Irish financial services market

Unable to disaggregate from total amount. The campaign is targeted at any consumers in the Irish financial services market whether at home or abroad.

Unable to disaggregate from total amount. The campaign is targeted at any consumers in the Irish financial services market whether at home or abroad.

All

Public awareness campaign Switch Your Bank. As part of a range of competition measures agreed with the European Commission under their respective EU-Restructuring plans AIB and Permanent TSB are required to provide funding to a public awareness campaign (such campaign to be facilitated by Ireland through an appropriate state body) to raise awareness and promote customer switching of financial products.

Financial Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (160)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

160. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether commercial banks and building societies engaged in reckless lending practices between 2000 and 2008; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in some cases depositors were contacted by the financial institutions and encouraged to invest their savings in buy-to-let properties using additional loans and that these properties ended up in negative equity; if the imparting of unsolicited and perceived irresponsible advice by the financial institutions has been investigated; the steps that can be taken to assist such depositors and borrowers at this stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29413/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The original Consumer Protection Code (the Code) was introduced in 2006 and effective from 1 July 2007 and set out rules and principles that all regulated financial services firms must follow when providing financial products and services to consumers. The general principles of the Code (which remain in place following the 2012 review of the Code) require regulated entities to ensure that they act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of its customers and the integrity of the market; act with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of its customers and do not recklessly, negligently or deliberately mislead a customer as to the real or perceived advantages or disadvantages of any product or service.

The Code requires that before providing a product or service to a consumer, regulated entities are obliged to gather and record sufficient information from the consumer to enable it to provide a recommendation or a product or service appropriate to that consumer. They must ensure that, having regard to the facts disclosed by the consumer and other relevant facts about that consumer of which the regulated entity is aware, any product or service offered to a consumer was suitable.

The Central Bank of Ireland uses a number of methods to monitor compliance with consumer protection requirements such as:

- inspections

- general reviews on a particular topic

- mystery shopping

- monitoring the advertising of financial services

- guide to Consumer Protection risk assessments

For further details please see https://www.centralbank.ie/regulation/consumer-protection/compliance-monitoring

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (161)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

161. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the costs paid to companies (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by his Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason each was engaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29443/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

My Department engaged the companies mentioned in each of the years 2015 to 2019. Details of the fees paid are in the following table:

Year

Business Unit

Companies

Cost per year

Reason each was engaged

2015

207608

Arthur Cox

€934,654

Litigation

2016

207608

Arthur Cox

€242,234

Litigation, procurement advice, ongoing management and phased disposal of State investments

2016

207601

PwC

€73,031

Professional services in relation to National Risk Assessment

2017

207608

Arthur Cox

€286,961

Litigation, ongoing management and phased disposal of State investments

2018

207608

Arthur Cox

€435,061

Litigation, HBFI, ongoing management and phased disposal of State investments

2018

207608

KPMG

€119,138

ReBo Wind-down, HBFI

2018

207608

A&L Goodbody

€44,034

An Post

2019

207608

Arthur Cox

€23,077

Litigation

There is also a record of an Public Appointments Service invoice for €30,750 relating to a competition for the appointment of members to the Central Bank Commission for 2018 on behalf of the Department, this payment was in relation to costs the Public Appointments Service incurred engaging PWC in relation to this work.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (162)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

162. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the costs paid to a company (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by his Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason it was engaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29552/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

My Department engaged the company System Dynamics to provide technical support for an IT system. In July 2015 this company was acquired by Deloitte. On two occasions between 2015 and 2019 we made payments in relation to this engagement. Details of the fees paid are in the following table:

Year

Projects

Costs paid

2015

Oracle JDEWARDS Support Service

19,999.80

2016

Oracle JDEWARDS Support Service

5,803.00

The Deputy might note that details of my Department's spending on legal and consultancy fees are regularly published on my Department's website.