Military Medals

Ceisteanna (43)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

43. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the medals that are being sought by the veterans and families of the siege of Jadotville will be awarded. [37993/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September "A" Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.

In accordance with Defence Forces regulations the award of medals for bravery is time bound. These may not be awarded in any case unless a recommendation is made through the usual channels to the Chief of Staff, not later than two years in the case of the Military Medal for Gallantry, and not later than four years in the case of the Distinguished Service Medal, after the performance of the act in respect of which the recommendation is made. Such awards are made on the recommendation of a Military Board appointed by the Chief of Staff for the purpose of examining and reporting on every recommendation for an award.  

The issue of the award of medals to the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion was comprehensively addressed in 1965. A properly constituted Medals Board considered the various cases presented. The board did not award any medals whose citations mention Jadotville. The Chief of Staff of the day considered the decision of the Board and was satisfied with the findings. Subsequently at that time, the question was raised again in a letter to a newly appointed Chief of Staff. He forwarded the letter to the original Medals Board and asked that they reconvene and review their decision. The Board indicated that the issues raised had received due consideration and that they were not prepared to alter their findings.  

Over the past number of years various representations have been received in my Department outlining the courage and bravery of "A" Company. All representations have been considered and responded to acknowledging their valiant actions while under siege in Jadotville.   

A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.

Recognition of their contribution over the years include:

A. A presentation of scrolls to "A" Company in 2006.

B. Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.

C. In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

D. A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Costume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.

E. On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, I decided to issue a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces and I was delighted to be able to formally recognize the brave actions of these men.

Furthermore, on 13th June 2017, the Government decided, as an exceptional step, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville.  This medal presentation ceremony took place on 2nd December 2017 in Custume Barracks, Athlone.  This location is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here that “A” company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo.   

I am satisfied that the events and happenings to date properly honour the collective bravery of the men of “A” Company and full and due recognition has been afforded to them in their honour.

Naval Service Vessels

Ceisteanna (44)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

44. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the stage the maritime patrol aircraft replacement project is at; when the project will go out for tender; when construction will commence; when the project will be completed; the estimated cost of the project; the amount spent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38083/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The White Paper on Defence provides for the replacement of the two CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft with consideration of their replacement with larger more capable aircraft, which would enhance maritime surveillance and provide a greater degree of utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks.

A public tender competition for the replacement of the CASA Maritime Patrol Aircraft is underway in my Department at present and is expected to be completed shortly. The tender competition is being carried out as a two stage restricted procedure  in accordance with EU Directive 2009/81/EC, which is a specific Directive relating to the award of contracts in the field of defence and security. A Request for Proposals (Stage 1) was published on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) in May 2018, and a Request for Tenders (Stage 2) issued in November 2018, followed by a detailed and comprehensive evaluation of tenders.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on at this stage or to divulge the estimated cost of the project pending the outcome of the tender competition as this information is commercially sensitive and the procurement process has not yet been completed.

In accordance with the National Development Plan, the capital allocation for Defence has been increased to €106 million for 2019, an increase of €29 million. The NDP provides for a total of €541 million over the period 2018 to 2022. This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years. The replacement of the Air Corps  CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft is among the projects included for funding. There will be no expenditure on the project until a contract is awarded.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (45, 46)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

45. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38149/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

46. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were not bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38165/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 46 together.

The Regulation of Lobbying Act was enacted in 2015. Section 22 of the Act provides that specific categories of Designated Public Officials (“DPOs”) are subject to a one-year “cooling-off” period, during which they cannot engage in lobbying activities in specific circumstances, or be employed by, or provide services to, a person carrying on lobbying activities in specific circumstances.

The relevant DPOs for whom a “cooling-off” period applies are Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State, Special Advisers appointed under section 11 of the Public Services Management Act 1997 and public servants prescribed as a DPO by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform under section 6(2) of the Regulation of Lobbying Act, such as Secretary General, Second Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Assistant Secretary or Director. A list of current DPOs is maintained on the website of my department.

The cooling-off period is a statutory requirement and applies for the full one-year term unless the relevant DPO applies to the Standards in Public Office Commission for consent to waive or reduce their cooling-off period. It is the responsibility of the relevant DPO to seek consent prior to taking up an offer of employment (or to provide services). Statistics on the number of applications for consent under section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 are included in the annual Regulation of Lobbying report published by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour sets out further guidance on the acceptance of outside appointments and of consultancy engagement following resignation or retirement (Section 20). Civil Servants who hold positions which are “designated positions” for purposes of the Ethics Acts shall not, within twelve months of resigning or retiring from the service, accept an offer of appointment from an employer outside the Civil Service or accept an engagement in a particular consultancy project where the nature and terms of such appointment or engagement could lead to a conflict of interest, without first obtaining approval from the appropriate authority. Officers below Assistant Secretary level must apply to the Secretary General or Head of Office in which they are serving, or have last served before retirement or resignation. Officers at and above Assistant Secretary level must apply to the Outside Appointments Board.

All civil servants who resign or retire from my Department are informed in writing of their obligations under section 20 of the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour, and the relevant legislation including the Official Secrets Act. 

Any application from a former civil servant must be made to the appropriate authority as outlined above and would be dealt with on an individual basis and would not be collated by my Department.

Defence Forces Data

Ceisteanna (47)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

47. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 34 of 13 June 2019, the basis within which the Department of Defence sees fit to undermine the decision of the courts in circumstances in which members of the Defence Forces have received compensation for injuries received while they were serving members of the Defence Forces by reducing their pension entitlements up to and beyond the extent of an award made by the courts on the basis of pain and suffering, injuries received and disability thereafter; if the cases referred to can be re-examined on the basis that the decision of the courts is final and binding and attempts to circumnavigate this are illegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38211/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Army Pensions Acts provide for the grant of pensions and gratuities to former members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in respect of permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to military service (whether at home or abroad) or due to disease attributable to or aggravated by overseas service with the United Nations.

Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act, 1923, as amended, provides that any alternative compensation received for the same injury or medical condition for which an award is being made under the Army Pensions Acts, may be taken into consideration in fixing the level of disability pension or gratuity that might otherwise be awarded under the Army Pensions Acts. 

The underlying objective of Section 13(2) is to take into consideration compensation paid 'on the double' for the same disablement.

All aspects of each such case, including, in particular, representations made by, or on behalf of, the individual, as well as the annuity value of the compensation received (which is based on an actuarial assessment) are fully considered and a bona fide decision is made in each individual case.

The Deputy may also wish to note that the Courts have held (in a High Court judgement) that the Minister (for Defence) may take into consideration that part of the damages which can properly be regarded as general damages or that part which can properly be regarded as referable to loss of earnings, or both these parts, as he considers proper. Alternatively, he may decide to take none of the compensation into account.

I am satisfied that my Department has acted in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions and I do not consider it necessary or appropriate to carry out a re-examination of such cases.

Foreign Birth Registration

Ceisteanna (48)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

48. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if an application for foreign birth registration by a person (details supplied) was received; if same will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37957/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Foreign Births Registration, by its nature, can be a detailed and complex process, often involving official documentation related to three generations and issued by several jurisdictions. The establishment of the new Foreign Births Registration team at the beginning of this year has introduced a short delay in the processing of applications.

Due to the complex nature of Foreign Births Registration, it takes on average between 6 to 12 months to process an application.

With regard to the specific application the Deputy has enquired about, I can confirm that the application in question has been received. A member of the Foreign Births Registration Team has been in direct contact with the applicant regarding his application.

Ministerial Travel

Ceisteanna (49)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

49. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will visit the United States of America before the end of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37979/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am scheduled to travel to New York 22-25 September, in order to take part in high-level engagements around the opening of the 74th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. I will, in particular, be advocating on behalf of Ireland’s candidature for the UN Security Council and will take part in a number of bilateral meetings with key contacts.

This will be the second time this year I have visited the US. I travelled there in February for a series of high-level political engagements at the UN, with the US Administration and with US Congressional figures. I also travelled to launch the Government’s new Strategy for the US and Canada. On that occasion, I visited New York and Washington, D.C.

In Ireland, I have also had a series of engagements with important US politicians throughout the year. In March, I met with Senator Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In April, I also met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Richard Neal and hosted them at a series of engagements, on the occasion of a visit of the congressional delegation that they were leading. Most recently, I met with Vice President Pence during his visit to Ireland earlier this month.

In all my engagements with senior US officials and politicians, I made the case for continued strong and mutually beneficial Irish-US trade. I also briefed on Brexit and the effect that it will have on Ireland, north and south. I reiterated Irish immigration concerns with US contacts, highlighting the Government’s twin priorities of securing legal pathways for Irish emigration to the US and seeking relief for the undocumented Irish in the US.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (50, 51)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

50. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38153/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

51. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were not bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38169/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 51 together.

The Regulation of Lobbying Act was enacted in 2015. Section 22 of the Act provides that specific categories of Designated Public Officials (“DPOs”) are subject to a one-year “cooling-off” period, during which they cannot engage in lobbying activities in specific circumstances, or be employed by, or provide services to, a person carrying on lobbying activities in specific circumstances.

The relevant DPOs for whom a “cooling-off” period applies are Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State, Special Advisers appointed under section 11 of the Public Services Management Act 1997 and public servants prescribed as a DPO by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform under section 6(2) of the Regulation of Lobbying Act, such as Secretary General, Second Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Assistant Secretary or Director.

The cooling-off period is a statutory requirement and applies for the full one-year term unless the relevant DPO applies to the Standards in Public Office Commission for consent to waive or reduce their cooling-off period. It is the responsibility of the relevant DPO to seek consent prior to taking up an offer of employment (or to provide services). Statistics on the number of applications for consent under section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 are included in the annual Regulation of Lobbying report published by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour sets out further guidance on the acceptance of outside appointments and of consultancy engagement following resignation or retirement (Section 20). Civil Servants who hold positions which are “designated positions” for purposes of the Ethics Acts shall not, within twelve months of resigning or retiring from the service, accept an offer of appointment from an employer outside the Civil Service or accept an engagement in a particular consultancy project where the nature and terms of such appointment or engagement could lead to a conflict of interest, without first obtaining approval from the appropriate authority. Officers below Assistant Secretary level must apply to the Secretary General or Head of Office in which they are serving, or have last served before retirement or resignation. Officers at and above Assistant Secretary level must apply to the Outside Appointments Board.

Records are not maintained of officers who have applied to my Department for such approval.

Passport Data

Ceisteanna (52)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

52. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of passports issued but subsequently revoked and or voided due to the fact they were obtained by fraud and or deception in the past ten years to date; the jurisdiction the offence occurred in each instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38182/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Passport Service takes its responsibility to protect the integrity of the Irish Passport very seriously.

The Irish passport has a strong international reputation due to the strength of security features within the book and the robust processes involved in its issuance. 

The Integrity Section of the Passport Service was established in 2015 to improve all aspects of fraud detection and prevention in order to protect the integrity of the passport. Staff numbers in the Integrity Section have increased in recent years and new and improved systems have been put in place. This large investment in technology and structures has helped to improve our recording and detecting of Fraud.

For operational and security reasons, it is not possible to disclose information concerning specific cases. 

Due to lack of records it is not possible to provide the figures requested prior to 2016. Since 2016, the total number of Irish passports that were cancelled by the Passport Service because of suspected fraud are as follows:

Year

Number of passports

 2016

 76

 2017

 82

 2018

 130

 2019*

 46*

*to June 30 2019

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (53)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

53. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Finance the status of the betting tax review; when the review will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37952/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

During the course of the Finance Bill process last year, the betting sector raised concerns regarding the impact of the duty increases on their sector, especially on small independent bookmakers who might have difficulty competing with larger bookmakers with retail and/or online operations.

The industry proposed that the current turnover based model be replaced with a gross profits model, based on the UK model of calculating gross profits. However, the critical difference to the UK model was that it proposed that different rates would apply for retail and online activities. The industry suggested a rate of 10% of gross profits for retail activities and 20% of gross profits for online activities.

I agreed to review the proposal to apply differentiated rates to the retail and online sectors.  My Department outlines the review in this year's TSG General Excise Paper, as well as other elements of betting tax policy. 

In relation to the proposal to apply differentiated rates through a gross profits model, following consultation with the European Commission, my officials have advised that it is clear that there is insufficient legal certainty to proceed with any such proposal at this time. The key element of the proposal was the differentiated rates for the retail and online sectors and my Department does not see any compelling case to change from the current model to a gross profits model at this point in time.

Universal Social Charge

Ceisteanna (54)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

54. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to address the significant step effect (details supplied) in the application of the universal social charge for persons aged 70 years of age or over; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37960/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

When the USC was introduced in Budget 2011, individuals aged 70 years and over and individuals holding a full medical card were not liable to the top rates of the charge. The maximum rate of charge for such individuals at that time was 4%, irrespective of the level of their income, unless they had non-PAYE income (such as investment or self-employment income) in excess of €100,000 for a tax year, in which case the maximum rate was increased to 7% on the amount of non-PAYE income in excess of €100,000.  

In Budget 2013, due to the prevailing budgetary constraints and the need to raise revenue, the Government decided that the reduced rates of USC for those aged 70 years and over and for medical card holders would be available only to those with annual income of up to €60,000, with effect from 1 January 2013. It is important to point out that this measure ensures equity between all citizens with incomes in excess of €60,000, while ensuring that those aged over 70 and medical card holders on more modest incomes do not suffer the higher rates of USC. While step effects are never ideal, they are often a feature of tax systems with exemption thresholds, as the application of a tax on this basis allows those with incomes below the threshold to be supported by means of the exemption, while also achieving the required yield from the tax.

It is important to state that the State Contributory Pension and the State Non-Contributory Pension are not chargeable to Universal Social Charge (USC) or Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI). 

Furthermore, other taxation supports for the over 65s may apply depending on the personal circumstances of the individual. They include the Age Tax Credit which is available to all individuals aged 65 or over who do not qualify for an exemption from income tax. This credit is currently set at €245 for single individuals or €490 for a married couple or civil partners.

In addition, as a result of changes in the last five Budgets, USC rates have been reduced to 0.5%, 2% and 4.5%.  The income level at which taxpayers begin to pay the higher rate of tax has also been increased by €2,500 and there have been increases in both the Home Carer Tax Credit and the Earned Income Credit.  The impact of these changes is that the top marginal rate on incomes up to €70,000 has been reduced from 52% to 48.5%, with fewer people on incomes around the national average having any income subject to the 40% rate of income tax.

Property Tax Administration

Ceisteanna (55)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

55. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the penalty and surcharge arrangements that apply to self-employed persons who fail to make a local property tax return or pay their LPT; his plans to revise this policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the full range of its collection and enforcement options applies  in relation to the local property tax (LPT) as it does in relation to other taxes and duties under its care and management. As with other taxes and duties, penalties can be imposed for various offences such as failure to submit returns or other documentation or the provision of false information. Section 38 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 (as amended) provides for the imposition of surcharges for the late payment of Local Property Tax.

In the normal course of events, a person is penalised for the late submission (or non-submission) of an income tax return by the imposition of a surcharge on his or her income tax liability. However, a person who has submitted his or her income tax return on time can also be liable to an income tax surcharge in respect of the late submission of his or her LPT return or the failure to pay LPT.  Where a liable person has not submitted his or her LPT return by the time that he or she submits an income tax return, the income tax liability is increased by 10% up to a maximum increase of €63,485.  Where the LPT return is subsequently submitted and the associated LPT liability is paid, the income tax surcharge is capped at the amount of the LPT liability.

Revenue can require employers and pension providers to mandatorily deduct LPT at source from a person’s wages or pension, where the person fails to comply with his or her LPT obligations.

As such an enforcement option can apply in the case of PAYE taxpayers, it is considered that linking non-compliance with LPT by self-employed persons with a surcharge on their income tax liabilities is both fair and proportionate. The challenge of compliance is particularly significant for LPT owing to the nature of the tax itself and the wide demographic liable for the tax, a significant proportion of which are not taxpayers to whom the standard collection and enforcement methods could be applied.

Given the level of LPT liability for most property owners, the application of a 10% surcharge on a person’s LPT liability alone would be unlikely to act as an effective deterrent to non-compliance.  As I have already stated, having incurred a surcharge, a self-employed person has the opportunity to cap the surcharge at the amount of the LPT liability due by submitting an LPT return and/or paying the LPT liability.

VAT Rate Application

Ceisteanna (56, 57)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

56. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the status of the VAT proposals on food supplements in view of the publication of the tax strategy group papers in summer 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37965/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

57. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he or his officials received correspondence from an organisation (details supplied) on VAT on food supplements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37966/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 57 together.

My Department carried out a public consultation on the taxation of food supplement products, which sought input from a wide range of interested parties, including from health and nutrition experts, and the Minister for Health. Separately, correspondence has been received from several organisations on the subject of the matter, including the referred.

The results of the public consultation were included in the recently published 2019 VAT Tax Strategy Group (TSG) paper as part of the Budget 2020 process. Several options have been set out on the VAT treatment of food supplement products in the TSG paper, available here:

https://assets.gov.ie/19123/083625ae43d948c88917c749a2ff6b57.pdf

The options outlined in the TSG paper will be considered in the normal way as part of the budgetary process.

Vehicle Registration

Ceisteanna (58, 67)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

58. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the proposals in place for the motor industry and changing vehicle registration tax (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37969/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

67. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance his plans to widen the VRT bands as recommended at EU level in view of the proposed introduction of a new CO2 test procedure for cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38195/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 67 together.

The European Commission did not recommend widening the CO2 bands within the VRT regime. It did state that it is for Member States to decide when and how to adjust national car taxation schemes in light of the introduction of the WLTP emissions test. It further stated that the introduction of WLTP does not necessarily result in higher car taxes, if the adjustment of national car taxation schemes takes account of the expected increase in CO2 emissions under WLTP.

The Government's Climate Action Plan calls for VRT to be recalibrated in light of recent emissions standards. That means that the environmental rationale which underpins the tax needs to be strengthened.

Any changes to the VRT rates and bands structure will be subject to Budget decisions.

Central Bank of Ireland

Ceisteanna (59)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

59. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider introducing legislation to rescind the autonomy of the Central Bank in view of the failure of the bank to create financial regulations to improve the ability of younger persons to purchase their own homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38001/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The independence of the Central Bank of Ireland is provided for in Section 6(1)(A) of the Central Bank Act 1942, as amended. It is also enshrined in European statute by the Rome Treaty and the ESCB Statute.  I view this independence as vital in performing the Bank’s functions and also in terms of providing unbiased advice to Government and the Oireachtas. 

Given these national and EU statutes, I as Minister for Finance have no role in relation to the day to day functioning of the Central Bank.

VAT Rate Reductions

Ceisteanna (60)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

60. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider re-evaluating the decision to increase the VAT rate for the restaurant and hospitality sector from 9% to 12% and instead consider a 10% VAT rate for 2020 in view of the difficulties faced by rural businesses due to this increase in addition to the problems caused by Brexit to the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38023/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The 9% VAT rate was introduced as a temporary measure in 2011, due to cease at the end of 2013. This period was subsequently extended, but in 2017 a commitment was given to undertake a review of the 9% VAT rate. This review was published in July 2018 and the Budget decision to increase the VAT rate was made following that analysis. 

This review assessed the relevance, cost, value-for-money and impact to date of the 9% VAT rate and also undertook an analysis of the estimated impact on the various tourism sectors of removing the VAT rate. The review found there is a lack of competitiveness in the sector and that if the 9% rate were to be increased, this would likely not materially impact demand or employment in the sector.

The review found that tourism expenditure is more sensitive to income growth and the economic cycle than to price changes. The economy is currently performing well, with high levels of employment and strong demand in the tourism sector.  Growth is also expected to continue in the medium term. This positive economic outlook means that the income channel of demand is likely to ensure that economic activity within the sectors to which the 9% VAT rate applies remains strong. 

Furthermore, the Revenue Commissioners also published a report on the 9% VAT Rate in June 2018 which analyses the output and employment impact of the 9% VAT rate using Revenue data. The analysis found an estimated increase in employment of on average 1.8 employees for each firm benefitting from the reduced rate in the accommodation and food sector in the year following the introduction of the reduced rate. However, beyond the short term, they were unable to distinguish the impact of the rate on employment from the impact of other factors in the economy.

Given the impact of an increase in the VAT rate on the hospitality sector has only recently been reviewed by my Department and the Revenue Commissioners, there does not seem to currently be a case for reviewing the impact of the increase.

Finally, the Deputy will appreciate that any reduction in VAT rates incurs a cost to the exchequer, which would necessitate recovery elsewhere.

Banking Sector Regulation

Ceisteanna (61)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

61. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Irish banks implemented an illegal version of accounting standard IAS 39 in the period 2005 to 2018 (details supplied); and if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that an organisation confirmed that its advice on IAS 39 as used by a company is inconsistent with the law. [38025/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am aware that the Clerk of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach had written to the Secretary General of the Department of Finance, drawing his attention to statements made to that Committee on 28 May 2019 relating to accounting standards and I understand that a reply has issued to the Committee.

Statutory requirements and international rules for accounting standards are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Her Department has policy responsibility for the transposition and implementation of the EU Audit Directive and Regulation, the Companies Acts, and also for the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA).

In relation to the accounting standards for banks, these have been changed by the introduction of International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) 9 to replace International Accounting Standard (IAS) 39.  The adoption of IFRS in the EU requires the presentation of a true and fair view of the financial position of the bank. IFRS 9 specifies how an entity should classify and measure financial assets, financial liabilities, and some contracts to buy or sell non-financial items. It introduces a new regime for impairment provisioning and imposes an Expected Credit Loss approach to provisioning as opposed to the incurred loss approach that was required by IAS 39.

In relation to the cited legal opinions, I am not in a position to comment on UK legal opinions of its statutes.

Tax Reliefs Data

Ceisteanna (62, 63)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

62. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who have availed of the special assignee relief programme in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by salaries in ranges (details supplied). [38121/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

63. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who have availed of the special assignee relief Programme in each of the years 2013 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the cost of tax foregone from the programme in each year; the number of persons availing of the programme; the tax foregone from the programme disaggregated by year; the estimated savings that would be made by abolishing the programme in each of the years 2020 to 2024; and the estimated cost of the programme in each of the years 2020 to 2024. [38122/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 63 together.

I am informed by Revenue that the cost of the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP) for years 2012-2016 (the latest year for which data are available), along with the number of claimants per year, broken down by income range, is available on the Revenue website at

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/research/statistical-reports/special-asignee-relief-programme.aspx.

The following table sets out the information the Deputy asked for in bands approximating those set out in his question:

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

€75,000 to €150,000

-

35

88

224

359

€150,001 to €225,000

-

36

79

155

160

€225,001 to €300,000

-

28

63

81

79

€300,001 to €375,000

-

12

29

34

56

€375,001 to €675,000

-

10

33

62

95

€675,001 to €1,000,000

-

-

8

22

26

€1,000,001 to €3,000,000

-

-

2

8

14

€3,000,001 to €10,000,000

-

-

-

-

4

The Exchequer cost of the programme has been as follows:

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

€0.1 million

€1.9 million

€5.9 million

€9.5 million

€18.1 million

I understand that figures for 2017 will be made available within the coming weeks.

As I indicated in my reply to an earlier question from the Deputy, it is not possible to estimate with any degree of reliability the likely savings that would accrue to the Exchequer in 2020 or in the years beyond that if the SARP were abolished.  Similarly, it is not possible to estimate accurately the cost of extending the programme out to 2024. The reason is that there are currently no data available that would enable such calculations to be made. The Deputy will be aware that in Finance Bill 2018 I re-imposed an upper salary ceiling of €1 million on the relief with effect of 1 January 2019 for new entrants and for existing beneficiaries of the programme from 1 January 2020. Such data as are available within the system relate to years before 2019 (no cap existed between 2015 and 2019). It would therefore be necessary to assess the cost-saving impact of the cap as well as taking account of evolution in the take up of the relief during the current year in order to begin to estimate the savings or costs that might arise in 2020 or subsequent years.  Also, the further ahead we seek to look, the more speculative such estimates are likely to be as assumptions for one year are placed on top of those for the preceding year.

In accordance with the Department of Finance Tax Expenditure Guidelines, SARP is currently the subject of an independent review, carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants. The review exercise affords an opportunity to look at all elements of the relief and it also includes consultation with stakeholders.  I understand that the report is currently being finalised and I expect that it will be submitted to me shortly. I hope to publish the report in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill.

Brexit Staff

Ceisteanna (64)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

64. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Finance the number of new customs officials who will be hired to help deal with Brexit; the number hired and trained to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38125/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Budget 2017 provided Revenue with resources for an additional 40 staff to prepare for Brexit.  These staff were recruited and trained in 2017 and 2018. 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. I am advised by Revenue that 519 of these staff have already been  appointed and trained, with the remaining staff to be in place and trained by 31 October 2019.

Departmental Staff Data

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 58.

Ceisteanna (65, 66)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

65. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38152/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

66. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants that have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years that were not bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year, and sector the staff moved on to; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38168/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 66 together.

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Regulation of Lobbying Act was enacted in 2015. Section 22 of the Act provides that specific categories of Designated Public Officials (“DPOs”) are subject to a one-year “cooling-off” period, during which they cannot engage in lobbying activities in specific circumstances, or be employed by, or provide services to, a person carrying on lobbying activities in specific circumstances.

The relevant DPOs for whom a “cooling-off” period applies are Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State, Special Advisers appointed under section 11 of the Public Services Management Act 1997 and public servants prescribed as a DPO by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform under section 6(2) of the Regulation of Lobbying Act, such as Secretary General, Second Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Assistant Secretary or Director. A list of current DPOs is maintained on the website of my department.

The cooling-off period is a statutory requirement and applies for the full one-year term unless the relevant DPO applies to the Standards in Public Office Commission for consent to waive or reduce their cooling-off period. It is the responsibility of the relevant DPO to seek consent prior to taking up an offer of employment (or to provide services). Statistics on the number of applications for consent under section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 are included in the annual Regulation of Lobbying report published by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour sets out further guidance on the acceptance of outside appointments and of consultancy engagement following resignation or retirement (Section 20). Civil Servants who hold positions which are “designated positions” for purposes of the Ethics Acts shall not, within twelve months of resigning or retiring from the service, accept an offer of appointment from an employer outside the Civil Service or accept an engagement in a particular consultancy project where the nature and terms of such appointment or engagement could lead to a conflict of interest, without first obtaining approval from the appropriate authority. Officers below Assistant Secretary level must apply to the Secretary General or Head of Office in which they are serving, or have last served before retirement or resignation. Officers at and above Assistant Secretary level must apply to the Outside Appointments Board.

I have had no request from Officers below Assistant Secretary level.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 58.