Rehabilitation Training Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (151)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

151. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Health his plans to provide a replacement for the recently abolished rehabilitation training allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37838/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

This Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives.  The commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

The payment of the Rehabilitative Training (RT) Bonus came into place on the transition of Rehabilitative/Training Programmes to the HSE following the dissolution of the National Rehabilitation Board in June 2000.

The decision to phase out the Rehabilitative Training (RT) Bonus payment is designed to bring equity and consistency between people with a disability attending HSE funded rehabilitative training programmes who receive the payment, and those attending similar HSE funded Day Services or in other State schemes such as further education and training, who do not.  

This action will ensure all HSE funded Day Services are provided on an equitable basis and will also ensure that the use of finite resources is maximised. 

The Rehabilitative Training (RT) Bonus Payment is a historical payment, introduced in July 2001, aligned with a similar FÁS Training Bonus. However, during 2011 the FÁS Training Bonus was reduced to €20.00 and then eliminated the following year while to date the RT Bonus Payment has continued to be paid in the Health Sector  

It is worth remembering that:

- There is no cut in the number of RT places available

- There is no cut in payment of the bonus - those who have it will continue to receive it for the remainder of their RT Placement

- All participants continue to be eligible for Disability Allowance of €203 per week

- All participants continue to be eligible for a free travel pass

- No expectation of an additional RT bonus payment has been created by HSE for 2019 participants

The redirected funding (€3.7 m over 4 years), which will be ring-fenced, will facilitate 148 full day placements or 370 enhanced day places nationally based on priority need.   

Each CHO will have the flexibility to redirect its own savings to address local service requirements. The HSE will put in place a monitoring system and regularly report the additional placements realised to the Department of Health.

Pesticide Use

Ceisteanna (152)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

152. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Health the policy of the HSE on the use of pesticides on grounds managed by it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37839/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

This is a matter for the HSE therefore I have referred the question to the HSE for attention and direct reply.

Assisted Human Reproduction Services Provision

Ceisteanna (153)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

153. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Health the timeline for the publication of the model of care for infertility being drawn up by his Department and the HSA; the timeline for the accessibility of the associated public fund for assisted human reproduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37846/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

In October 2017, the Government approved the drafting of a bill on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated areas of research, based on the published General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.  The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health published the report of its review of the General Scheme on 11 July 2019, as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, which began in January 2018. The Committee makes 11 main recommendations, which include proposals both related to broad policy objectives and more technical amendments.  Given the comprehensive scope of the legislation and the ethical, legal and social issues which arise from AHR practices, it is anticipated that certain areas of the General Scheme will require further consideration and refinement during the ongoing process of drafting the bill.  The Joint Committee’s Report and its recommendations will be considered as part of this process.

Interlinked with the legislation, officials in my Department, in conjunction with the HSE, are developing a model of care for infertility and an associated public fund for AHR.  This work includes developing proposals on the allocation of the €1 million fund for use in relation to AHR which was announced in December 2018.

Accordingly, options in relation to the parameters of any potential public funding model, including what eligibility criteria may be included, are still under consideration, and an announcement will be forthcoming once the relevant decisions have been finalised.

It should be noted that while AHR treatment is not currently funded by the Irish Public Health Service, a defined list of fertility medicines needed for fertility treatment is covered under the High Tech Arrangements administered by the HSE.  Medicines covered by the High Tech Arrangements must be prescribed by a consultant/specialist and authorised for supply to the client’s nominated community pharmacy by the High Tech Hub managed by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service.  The cost of the medicines is then covered, as appropriate, under the client’s eligibility, i.e., Medical Card or Drugs Payment Scheme.  I understand that the impact on the total cost of AHR treatment for individuals who avail of these schemes is not insignificant.

In addition, there is other support available in that patients who access IVF treatment privately may claim tax relief on the costs involved under the tax relief for medical expenses scheme. 

Overall, the development of a model of care for infertility will help to ensure the provision of safe, effective and accessible services through the public health system as part of the full range of services available in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Disability Support Services

Ceisteanna (154)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

154. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Health the reason a new assessment of needs officer has not been appointed in the Dublin 15 assessment of needs area; if this is due to a recruitment freeze; when such an appointment will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37855/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Pharmacy Regulations

Ceisteanna (155)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

155. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Health if he has received rules (details supplied) for his consideration; if he has prepared plans to prevent job losses among pharmaceutical assistants nationally on these new regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37859/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Pharmacy Act 2007, my role in relation to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (Temporary Absence of Pharmacist from Pharmacy) Rules is limited to their consideration once submitted to me for my consent.

In this case, the Rules in question are currently subject to legal challenge. As a result, they are not currently under consideration.

I am not in a position to comment any further due to the legal challenge.

Home Care Packages Eligibility

Ceisteanna (156)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

156. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health if he will consider setting up a specialised home care unit for persons who have sudden onset catastrophic life changing injuries or illnesses that require specialised home care as a matter of urgency (details supplied); and his views on the matter. [37862/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives.  This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

As the Deputy's question relates to a service issue, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ceisteanna (157)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

157. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 214 of 18 October 2018, the status of the plans to provide an appropriate adult day service for persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37882/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.   

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (158)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

158. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health when an operation will be provided for a person (details supplied); the reason for the delay in issuing a date for surgery in view of the exceptional circumstances in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37886/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual. 

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, since January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (159)

John Brassil

Ceist:

159. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Health if an appointment will be provided for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37914/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for reply to the Deputy.

Medicinal Products Supply

Ceisteanna (160)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

160. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37924/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Hare Coursing Regulation

Ceisteanna (161)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

161. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether live hare coursing has a place in a modern society in view of the grave concerns over greyhound welfare in general across Ireland raised over the past number of months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37893/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon.

My Department has a strong and consistent record regarding the enforcement of animal welfare rules, including the review of 100 years of animal welfare legislation, leading to the enactment of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.

In addition, my Department is working with Bord na gCon on the development of a suite of measures, including a ring fenced fund "The Care Fund" to address a range of welfare matters. Bord na gCon will also be using the provisions laid down in the newly signed Greyhound Racing Act 2019 to improve the traceability of greyhounds and there will be a review of how exchequer funding is allocated within Bord na gCon, with a view to refocusing the industry on welfare issues.

The ICC has assured my Department that it has systems and practices in place to underpin the welfare of hares and greyhounds involved in coursing. Hares can only be collected for coursing by clubs affiliated to the ICC, in accordance with the terms of two licences granted by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

These licences contain 26 conditions which have been refined over the years, the majority of which are central to hare welfare. These include a variety of measures, including a requirement that a qualified veterinarian attends all coursing meetings to report on the health of the hares, a prohibition on the coursing of hares more than once in the same day, a prohibition on the coursing of sick or pregnant hares and a requirement that hares be released back into the wild during daylight hours. 

The ICC also attends to the welfare of the hare and undertakes a range of actions to address issues related to health and welfare. Coursing clubs are required to comply with directives, instructions and guidance notes issued by the ICC in all matters relating to the capture, keeping in captivity, tagging, marking, coursing and release of hares, and the muzzling of greyhounds.

A Monitoring Committee on Coursing is in place, comprising officials from my Department, the ICC and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), to monitor developments in coursing and, in that regard, the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well controlled and responsible manner in the interests of both hares and greyhounds.

The licence for the 2019/2020 coursing season has been suspended by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht due to the outbreak of the RHD2 virus and that department continues to monitor the situation.

I believe that it is critically important that those involved in coursing operate in accordance with the regulatory framework and that the welfare of both hares and greyhounds is prevalent at all times. 

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Ceisteanna (162)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

162. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the role of the Competition and Consumer Protection Authority will be examined in investigating alleged cartels in the meat industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37765/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Competition and Consumer Protection Authority is the national competent authority for the enforcement of competition law in Ireland. It is an independent body under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and I do not have any oversight role in relation to its operation.

However, my Department has plans to commission a summary of competition law issues relevant to the beef sector, which will provide greater clarity on the various issues which are of concern to stakeholders.

Climate Change Advisory Council

Ceisteanna (163)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

163. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason the Climate Change Advisory Council called for a 53% reduction in the national suckler herd with no corresponding obligations being placed on other farming sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37766/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) Annual Review 2019 highlights the key role of the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector in reducing emissions between now and 2030.

The All-of-Government Climate Action Plan to tackle climate breakdown identifies a series of actions for the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector that ensure a fair contribution from agriculture and land use to our transition to a low carbon economy and society. This reflects our three pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production. This plan sets an ambitious target for the sector to reduce its emissions to between 17.5 and 19 Mt CO2e by achieving between 16.5 and 18.5 Mt CO2 e over the period 2021-2030.

These targets are not without its challenges but the Teagasc MACC report illustrates a suite of actions that provide opportunity for emissions reductions and a pathway towards achieving our commitments.

To reach the target of 19 Mt CO2 eq in 2030 requires us to manage the emissions profile from the sector between now and then through mobilisation of as many of these actions as possible as early as possible with high levels of take-up across our 139,000 farms.  The CCAC report highlights the importance of early adoption by farmers of the measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan.  All mechanisms, such as the CAP reform, market incentive and regulation will also be investigated in full by all the relevant stakeholders, including industry, to mobilise the necessary actions as swiftly as possible.

The next Common Agriculture Policy will be fully aligned with this need to prioritise climate action. There will be a step up in environmental and climate delivery in the next CAP.   The development of our CAP strategic plan will ensure the delivery of this target. A consultation process on the next CAP has already started and negotiations on CAP policy will intensify over the coming months.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (164)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

164. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the 30-month age limit for beef production will be removed in a bid to help alleviate some of the difficulties and income crisis being experienced by the farming community as a result of the beef crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37769/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There is no rule limiting the age of cattle for beef production. However, meat processors do make in-spec bonus payments in respect of cattle which meet certain market specifications demanded by retail customers. The 30 month age limit to which you refer is one such specification. It is entirely a commercial matter and is not a condition imposed by my Department.

It should be noted however that almost all third countries have a 30 month age limit in respect of imports and this will be specified in the veterinary health certificate which will accompany the product. These requirements are a matter for the authorities in those countries.   

On 15 September,  I announced that agreement had been reached between Meat Industry Ireland and farm organisations and representatives (IFA, ICMSA, ICSA, Macra na Feirme, INHFA, the Beef Plan Movement and Independent Farmers of Ireland) on a two strand agreement for the reform of the Irish Beef Sector. 

 Two elements of this relate specifically to the 30 month age limit: 

- the introduction of a new bonus of 8c/kg for steers and heifers aged between 30 to 36 months, which meet all non-age related existing in-spec criteria, and which up to now have not received any bonus;

- an independent review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the four in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector.

The entry into force of the Agreement is contingent on the cessation of all protests and blockades.  All parties to the Agreement agreed to recommend it to those they represent. The future of the beef sector is now in the balance, and I would appeal to all those still protesting to step back, for the sake of their fellow farmers.

Beef Exports

Ceisteanna (165)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

165. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken by his Department and Bord Bia to establish new markets for Irish beef in non-EU countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37770/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Market development – developing new markets and growing existing markets on the basis of market insights – is one of the five themes of Food Wise 2025, the ten-year strategy for the Irish agri-food sector. Market development and diversification is also a key response to the challenges which Brexit poses for the agri-food sector, particularly for the beef sector.

My Department is continuously working towards opening and enhancing market access for Irish beef to key markets outside the EU.

In April 2017, I launched a seven-point action plan on market access. This is being implemented through a variety of actions, including:

- A  market prioritisation exercise and subsequent detailed studies carried out by Bord Bia on behalf of my Department. The countries selected for a detailed examination of their meat markets were Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico and Malaysia;

- A market access web portal which was launched in May 2018 and is available on the Department’s website. It provides a wide range of valuable information on potential market opportunities to exporters

http://www.marketaccess.agriculture.gov.ie/

- An enhanced programme of Ministerial agri-food trade missions, in cooperation with Bord Bia and other State agencies.

Market access, both for beef and for live exports, has been a feature of these missions and over the last two and a half years, trade missions have focused on key growth markets such as:

- Asia: China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia;

- North America: USA, Mexico and Canada;

- The Gulf States and Turkey.

These missions feature high level political meetings as well as promotion opportunities for Irish beef and serve to enhance and improve our existing levels of market access in those destinations.

Since the Brexit vote in 2016, I have allocated significant additional funding to Bord Bia to enable it develop new markets and enhance existing ones. Bord Bia’s total grant in aid for 2019 is €46.6 million, representing a 60% increase in funding for the marketing and promotion of our food offering over five years. 

The approach of my Department and Bord Bia for market development is a combination of targeted research, high-level diplomacy, consultation with important agri-food stakeholders and co-operation with officials in competent authorities abroad. This approach serves to make the most effective use of available resources and to maximise opportunities for market access.

Since April 2017, agreement has been secured for the export of beef to several new third country markets, including:

- Beef (frozen boneless, under 30 months) to China

- Beef (as well as pork) to Ukraine

- Beef (as well as sheepmeat and poultry) to Qatar and Kuwait

Furthermore, during this period, enhanced beef access was agreed with Japan, Israel, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

While the role of my Department is to secure market access for the industry, it is ultimately up to food business operators, with the support of my Department and Bord Bia, to exploit these opportunities.

Aquaculture Licences

Ceisteanna (166)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

166. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a report (details supplied) will be made available to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37772/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy is aware, the report referred to remains in draft format and is not included in the documents currently under consideration as part of the aquaculture licence applications process for Kilmakilloge Harbour.

My Department is currently in communication with the Office of the Information Commissioner in relation to the possible release of this draft report.  In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further pending the conclusion of that process.

Pigmeat Sector

Ceisteanna (167)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

167. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures in place to ensure that the pig sector is protected from possible contagion with African swine fever; if a case of has been reported or found here since 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37788/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

While the threat posed by African Swine Fever (ASF) cannot be underestimated, it should be noted that ASF is not dangerous for humans, and meat from affected pigs does not pose any food safety risk.

ASF has never been detected in Ireland and my Department implements a range of controls to mitigate against the risk of the disease coming here. This includes monitoring the international disease situation, working with international partners and the implementation of an intensive communications campaign around the disease risk. This campaign aims to provide all relevant stakeholders including farmers, vets, hauliers and the general public with the information they need to play their part in protecting the national pig herd against the introduction of ASF into this country.   

A specific awareness campaign reminding everyone that the feeding of food waste containing meat products to pigs is prohibited was recently launched. This is a particularly important point as the ASF virus is robust and can survive for months, even years, in pork and pork products and the feeding of food waste to pigs is known to have caused outbreaks of ASF in Asian countries.  The key message is that it is vital that all food waste is disposed of safely away from pigs.  

Checks for illegal food products are also carried out by my Department in conjunction with Revenue at ports and airports using a targeted, risk-based approach. Manual checks along with a trained food detector dog and scanning equipment is used at Dublin airport to detect food in luggage, for example.

My Department also has a contingency plan in place for ASF to enable us to respond rapidly and effectively to any potential outbreak.

Rural Development Programme Data

Ceisteanna (168)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

168. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the transaction costs built into 2014-2020 RDP schemes and the way in which they operate (details supplied); the detail of each scheme operating in the 2014-2020 RDP that has a transaction cost built in in tabular form; the transaction costs for each RDP scheme in percentage terms; the additional payment available to eligible participants if a scheme measure is difficult to implement; and the maximum transaction costs permitted for RDP schemes as set down under current EU CAP regulations. [37804/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Irish Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP) is governed by Regulation (EU) 1305/2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). Transaction costs are defined herein as:

 Article 2.1.e

"transaction cost" means an additional cost linked to fulfilling a commitment, but not directly attributable to its implementation or not included in the costs or income foregone that are compensated directly; and which can be calculated on a standard cost basis;

Article 28, Agri-Environment and Climate, specifies how transaction costs are to be addressed under such schemes:

 Article 28.6

Payments shall be granted annually and shall compensate beneficiaries for all or part of the additional costs and income foregone resulting from the commitments made. Where necessary, they may also cover transaction costs up to a value of 20 % of the premium paid for the agri-environment-climate commitments. Where commitments are undertaken by groups of farmers or groups of farmers and other land managers, the maximum level shall be 30 %.

Article 29, Organic Farming, specifies how they are to be addressed under those schemes:

Article 29.4

Payments shall be granted annually and shall compensate beneficiaries for all or part of the additional costs and income foregone resulting from the commitments made. Where necessary they may also cover transaction costs to a value of up to 20 % of the premium paid for the commitments. Where commitments are undertaken by groups of farmers, the maximum level shall be 30 %.

Finally, Article 33, Animal Welfare, specifies how they are treated under those schemes

Article 33.3

The payments shall be granted annually and shall compensate farmers for all or part of the additional costs and income foregone resulting from the commitment made. Where necessary, they may also cover transaction costs to the value of up to 20 % of the premium paid for the animal welfare commitments.

Further detail on individual schemes is provided in the link below as requested.

Schemes available

Forestry Grants

Ceisteanna (169)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

169. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the length of time to process forestry applications within the Forest Service; the longest, shortest and average processing times for the past five years in tabular form; his plans to speed up the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37814/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is required to carefully vet all afforestation applications, with regard to their potential impact on the surrounding environment; on habitats; on archaeological monuments; on the social aspects of the proposal and to ensure that silviculturally, the proposal meets the required standards.  This detailed examination is carried out by district forestry inspectors, supported by experts in archaeology and ecology within my Department. 

Following the commencement of the Forestry Act in 2017, site notices must be erected at the entrance to the proposed site for afforestation and forest road works, to inform the public that an application has been submitted.  That site notice must remain in place for a period of five weeks.  Applications are open to public consultation, facilitated by the site notice and advertising on my Department’s website.  Interested parties may make a submission in writing on any application, within 30 days of it being advertised.  Certain public bodies may also be requested to provide an opinion on an application and up to eight weeks is provided for their response.  Therefore, since the commencement of the Act, a decision may not be issued within 30 days at a minimum.

In recent months, officials of my Department have engaged additional archaeological resources.  These inspectors have focused on afforestation applications and have worked to reduce the backlog in that area.  In addition to this, changes have been made to the online application system with regard to how applications near an archaeological monument are treated, to ensure that only applications in close proximity or surrounding such a feature are examined.  These changes have resulted in a reduction in the time taken to assess an application in respect of archaeology.

With regards to ecology, an additional inspector with ecological qualifications is now working on afforestation applications and further ecological resources will be obtained over the coming months. Officials of my Department have also been working to enhance the online application system, with regard to Appropriate Assessment procedures.  I am confident that these changes will enhance the afforestation application system.

Following receipt of an application, my Department conducts an initial check to ensure that all relevant details have been submitted as required.  The date an application is advertised on my Department’s website is the date that complete information has been received in relation to an application. The tables below indicate timeframes from the date advertised to the date of decision.  Accurate data is available and provided here since the start of the current Forestry Programme, when the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme commenced in January 2015.

The following table shows the shortest, longest and average time in days for a decision on an afforestation application. The Deputy should be aware that, in some cases, my Department requests further information from the applicant.  In the case below of the application that took 1,119 days for a decision, for example, the applicant was asked to provide further information, but despite numerous follow-up letters, did not respond for many months.

Year

Shortest

Longest

Average

2015

5

522

74

2016

3

680

86

2017

3/30*

1,119

91

2018

30

959

124

2019 to 31st August

30

826

139

* Note from the commencement of the Forestry Act, 2014, on 24 May, 2017, the shortest time before a decision is 30 days.  However, some applications would have been decided in a shorter timeframe from January to 23rd May that year.

Horse Racing Industry Funding

Ceisteanna (170)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

170. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will request an additional €5 million for the sport horse industry (details supplied) via Horse Sport Ireland to be invested throughout the industry for the purpose of job creation, increasing exports and to ensure the industry can reach its true potential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37825/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is fully committed to maximising the potential of the Sport Horse industry and continues to provide support to it both financially and with policy initiatives. I have demonstrated my commitment to the industry by increasing the budget allocated to Horse Sport Ireland from €2.0m in 2017 to €2.5m in 2018 and I have approved a further increase of €500,000 to €3.0m in 2019.  This is an increase of 50% on the 2017 allocation.  

In 2016, my Department commissioned Indecon International Consultants to undertake a review of Horse Sport Ireland.  The report was published in 2017. Horse Sport Ireland have been making great progress in implementing the Indecon recommendations.  The proposal to rationalise the board is close to finality with only the Northern representative outstanding.  A recruitment process through the Public Appointments Service was undertaken to select a new chairperson and three board members.    These members are now in place alongside the four industry representatives.

I have recently received a copy of the Strategy Report and a funding submission from HSI for 2020. I will consider this request in the context of the 2020 budget negotiations.

Knackery Industry

Ceisteanna (171, 172)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

171. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he is taking to address the impact of the closure of almost all knackeries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37876/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

172. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ensure that detailed and urgent consideration is given to the submission by an association (details supplied) in relation to the need for additional financial support due to the financial pressures on these businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37921/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together.

Discussions have taken place between the Animal Collectors Association and my Department officials on the fallen animal collection service. Following those intensive discussions, agreement has been reached that enables the collection of fallen animals to resume from 17 September. Continued animal collection will be contingent on written correspondence from my Department to the ACA on the agreement reached at the meeting. Further discussions between my Department and the ACA are planned to progress issues relating to supports for the animal collection service.

TAMS Eligibility

Ceisteanna (173)

John Brassil

Ceist:

173. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will review and reduce or remove the eligibility clause on the minimum spend of €2,000 for TAMS to eliminate the disincentive to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37947/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

To date, over 29,000 applications have been submitted under the suite of seven TAMS measures. Payment claims have been submitted in 11,500 of these cases. All approved applicants are encouraged to submit a payment claim as soon as they have completed their approved works.

The average spend of a TAMS II participant (€36,500) is significantly higher than the minimum investment level of €2,000.

In setting the minimum level of expenditure eligible for approval under TAMS II, consideration must be given to the administrative cost of processing an individual application and ensuring value for money.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (174)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

174. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if all oil reserves held in Britain have now been relocated to Ireland as part of no-deal Brexit contingency plans by his Department. [37781/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government has made no decision to move the State’s strategic oil stocks held in the United Kingdom back to Ireland. The National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) manages Ireland’s strategic oil stocks. Currently, 56% of Ireland’s stockholding is held in Ireland, 21% in the UK (including Northern Ireland) and 23% within other EU member states. NORA’s preference to hold stocks in Ireland is in line with Government policy; however insufficient storage capacity within Ireland necessitates the holding of some stocks abroad.

When the United Kingdom leaves the EU, stocks held in the United Kingdom, including those in Northern Ireland, will still be counted towards our International Energy Agency obligation.

The Irish oil industry does not anticipate product shortages on the markets as a result of the United Kingdom withdrawal. Given this and the quantity of strategic oil stocks held in Ireland, there is no scenario currently envisaged where we would be required to repatriate and utilise Irish stocks held on mainland UK.

Dublin Port Company, under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, are engaging with key stakeholders in putting in place contingency plans aimed at ensuring the port facility remains accessible, including the commercial oil terminals.

Waste Disposal Charges

Ceisteanna (175)

John Brady

Ceist:

175. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of those identified in work regarding the bin waiver as needing State assistance as a result of medical incontinence. [37822/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department has engaged with relevant stakeholders, including representative organisations and public bodies, in an effort to see how best to provide a financial support to persons with long-term incontinence with respect to the disposal of medical incontinence wear. One of the difficulties associated with efforts to deliver a support to date has been trying to accurately estimate the number of persons in need of the support. Stakeholders agree that it is not possible at present to determine a precise figure.

While there are complex issues at play in this area, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question, my Department is continuing to examine options to address this issue.