Departmental Shareholdings

Ceisteanna (113)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

113. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide details of all entities in which he or his Department hold shares; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30185/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Neither I as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, nor my Department, hold shares in entities.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (114)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

114. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the contracts his Department and agencies under his remit are engaged in for the provision of security services; the name of each contractor; the procurement process involved; the duration of each contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30243/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

For the provision of security services, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is currently in contract with Manguard Plus Limited, General Secure Logistics Service (GSLS) and Information Security Assurance Services Ltd. The details sought in relation to these particular contracts are set out in the following table.

Company

Service

Contract Start Date

Duration

Procurement Process

Information Security Assurance Services Ltd.

On-site ICT Security Advisory Service

8 August 2017

4 years

EU Level – Advertised in the Official Journal of the EU

Manguard Plus Ltd.

On-site Security Guarding (Dublin, Limerick, Cork)

1 August 2017

1 year (extended once)

Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform Multi Supplier Framework

General Secure Logistics Service (formerly Traenors)

Secure transport of cash

9 September 2014

1 year (extended annually)

Selected following a competitive tender

At both EU and national levels, public procurement is governed by a comprehensive regulatory and policy framework. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade adheres to the principle of competitive tendering in respect of its contracting for services, supplies and works. The applicable law and guidance is set out in the Public Sector Procurement Regulations published in 2016 under S.I. 284 of 2016, which implemented the European Directive (2014/18/EC) as well as the Circulars and Guidelines issued by Government. Implementation of these policies and principles ensures the Department gets best value for money and ensures that in general a competitive process is carried out in an open, objective and transparent manner. The Department is also required to use central Government frameworks when available.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (115)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

115. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has spoken to his UK counterpart regarding the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill 2017-19 that was on the legislative schedule in Westminster recently. [30013/19]

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.

I have been working intensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in recent weeks in the talks at Stormont to support the leaders of the political parties in finding an agreement that will get all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up and running again.

Absent the power-sharing Executive and Assembly to agree and pass a budget for Northern Ireland, the UK Government has introduced legislation to provide authority for expenditure in Northern Ireland, including through the Bill referred to. This is further compelling evidence of the urgent need to get the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland in place again. Budgetary and other decisions in relation to the delivery of public services and the full range of devolved policy issues need to be made by the power-sharing Executive and Assembly, elected by and accountable to all of the people of Northern Ireland.

While the specifics of a budget for Northern Ireland are not for the Government to engage on, I have had extensive discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the difficulties raised by the continuing absence of the devolved institutions and on how both Governments can continue to work together and do everything possible to secure an agreement that will get all institutions of the Agreement working again.

All five political parties have engaged constructively with that objective in the talks at Stormont over the last number of weeks. Progress has been made across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue between the party leaders. The two largest parties have a particular responsibility to reach an accommodation to secure the formation of a new power-sharing Executive.

The two Governments have called on the parties to continue to participate in this dialogue with each other towards a sustainable accommodation for all. The Governments and the leads of the Working Groups will also continue to engage with all the parties in discussions on the outstanding issues. The Governments will have to make an assessment before long on whether it is possible to move quickly in this period to final agreement.

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.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (116)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

116. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support the UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30367/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises was established on foot of a resolution to the Human Rights Council in 2014, led by a number of developing countries, including Ecuador and South Africa.

Four sessions of the Inter-Governmental Working Group have taken place to date. In advance of the fourth and most recent session in October 2018, Ecuador circulated the zero draft of a legally binding instrument. The next session of the Group will take place in October 2019 and Ireland will work with our EU partners to look at how we might actively and constructively engage in the negotiation process, notwithstanding our serious concerns about the way in which the work of the Group has been conducted to date. While we are open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding treaty, we believe that all economic operators should be treated in a non-discriminatory manner. The draft treaty that has currently been circulated focuses on transnational corporations and it is Ireland's view that any new treaty should cover both companies engaged in purely domestic operations as well as transnational corporations.

We would wish to see essential human rights principles reflected in any possible instrument, which should reaffirm the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights and stress the primary responsibility of States under existing human rights obligations to protect against human rights violations.

Ultimately, if it is to achieve its objectives, any legally binding instrument should enjoy broad support among UN Member States to ensure its effectiveness as well as international coherence in the framework of business and human rights. On this point, I would note that of the 21 countries which to date have adopted National Plans on Business and Human Rights, 16, including Ireland, are EU Member States. We would like to see any new initiative build on, rather than duplicate, existing measures such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. Above all we believe that it should be rooted in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In this regard, we are of the view that the UN Working Party on Business and Human Rights and the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights provide appropriate fora for consideration of any new initiatives.

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Ceisteanna (117)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

117. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Finance the status of the review of medical qualifying criteria for a primary medical certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30124/19]

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.

Finally, I would like to point out that legislation is being brought forward by the Minister for Health to replace the closed Motorised Transport Grant.

Budget 2020

Ceisteanna (118)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

118. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has identified hidden fiscal space for budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30286/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As I have stated on many occasions, an undue focus on the concept of fiscal space, which is calculated based on “one size fits all” European rules, is not appropriate for Ireland. Government budgetary policy is correctly formulated based on what is right for the economy given our position in the economic cycle, rather than a narrow, literal interpretation of what is legally permissible under the fiscal rules.

Table A1 of the Summer Economic Statement 2019, sets out an itemised “walk” from the gross fiscal space permitted within the expenditure benchmark pillar of the European fiscal rules to net fiscal space.

Accordingly, the net fiscal space represents the resources net of various pre-commitments and other unallocated resources contained in the indicative budgetary package of €2.8 billion for 2020. However, if utilised this would adversely impact on the headline general government balance.

Economic Policy

Ceisteanna (119)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

119. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has commissioned an analysis of the way to improve the capacity of automatic stabilisers to protect public revenues and stabilise expenditure in the event of an economic downturn; if consideration has been given to the impact that linking social welfare benefits to employment incomes would have on this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30288/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Firstly, let me emphasise the important role which automatic stabilisers play in smoothing the economic cycle. In the absence of discretionary policy intervention, the fixed level of welfare payments, for example, means that the welfare system stimulates aggregate demand within the economy relatively more during a downturn than during a period of expansion. This effect is what is known as an ‘automatic stabiliser’, where the tax or welfare system effectively ‘leans against the wind’ in a counter-cyclical manner. In this regard, it is worth noting that linking welfare payments to wage developments in the economy could represent a pro-cyclical policy action, serving to reduce the operation of automatic stabilisers. This is because the level of payments would rise in line with income increases, i.e. in an upturn, and decrease as incomes fall, i.e. in a downturn.

In addition, it is important that, as Minister for Finance, I continue to have the discretion to respond to cyclical changes in the economy. A commitment to wage indexation of this nature would significantly curtail this discretion, as it would absorb substantial budgetary resources. In fact, the ESRI has examined the impact of indexing both the tax and welfare system to wage inflation, with a recently published report estimating that this would cost the Exchequer some €1.2 billion annually.

For these reasons, whilst the Roadmap for Pensions Reform includes a commitment specifically in relation to the indexation of State Pension payments, indexation is not being considered as an across the board measure to support the operation of automatic stabilisers.