Questions Nos. 1 to 20, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 21 to 25, inclusive, resubmitted.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Questions Nos. 62 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (26)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

26. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the Vice President of the United States of America. [37533/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I met the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, on Tuesday 3 September. The Vice President was on an official visit to Ireland, marking the latest in a series of high-level visits by representatives of the US Government this year, including President Trump and Speaker Pelosi.

I was pleased to host the Vice President, the Second Lady and other family members for a lunch, which was largely social in nature.

The Vice President and I, accompanied by officials, then held a bilateral meeting at which we discussed several issues of mutual interest including US-Ireland bilateral relations, including economic relations; Brexit, including its potential impacts on this island; developments relating to Northern Ireland; and international trade, including the prospect for an EU-US trade agreement.

Questions Nos. 27 to 61, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 62 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

Brexit Supports

Questions Nos. 66 to 74, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (65)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

65. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the sectors of the economy his Department has identified as needing targeted support in the event of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39452/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Everyone is aware that the UK’s departure from the EU will pose significant challenges for Ireland. The challenges posed by a no-deal departure will be particularly acute.

The Government has been putting in place the utmost Brexit preparations since even before the outcome of the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership became known. Since then, Budget 2017, Budget 2018 and Budget 2019 have all contained measures to ensure that Ireland is in the best possible position to respond to the challenges that Brexit will bring.

These measures continue the process of assuring that Ireland’s economy remains competitive and resilient against the backdrop of heightened uncertainty, and include balancing our books; reducing our debt burden; putting in place a major programme of capital investment; establishing the Rainy Day Fund; and broadening the tax base.

Specific initiatives have been introduced aimed at supporting those sectors most affected by Brexit, most notably the Brexit Loan Scheme in Budget 2018 and the Future Growth Loan Scheme in Budget 2019. The Future Growth Loan Scheme is open to eligible Irish enterprises, including those in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic, long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment. The Brexit Loan Scheme provides working capital loans, at least 40% of which is available for food businesses.

The Government and its agencies have also put in place extensive supports and advisory resources to ensure that the sectors likely to be most impacted are prepared for Brexit.

As Deputies will be aware, the Summer Economic Statement set out two budgetary scenarios for Budget 2020, the first involving an orderly departure by the UK from the EU and the second involving a disorderly exit. Last month the Government decided that the budgetary strategy to be adopted should be based on the latter assumption.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government has already said that it will provide counter-cyclical support to the economy through social protection payments occasioned by higher unemployment and, on the revenue side, lower tax collections which help cushion aggregate demand.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government will also introduce timely, targeted, temporary measures. Brexit contingency support may also be needed to address specific issues in the event of a ‘worst case scenario’ disorderly Brexit. I am working with the relevant Ministers on such measures in the context of Budget 2020.

All of these measures form part of a comprehensive response to Brexit across all sectors which has been set out in the Government’s Contingency Action Plan, which was updated in July. This is the second update of the Plan that was originally published in December 2018 and reflects the extensive work that has taken place to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

The Government’s management of the economy, however, means that Ireland is facing the challenge of Brexit from a position of economic strength. The Irish economy continues to grow at a robust pace and we are close to full employment. But we do not underestimate the challenges ahead and will be prepared.

Questions Nos. 66 to 74, inclusive, answered orally.

Flood Relief Schemes Status

Ceisteanna (75)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

75. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the Crossmolina flood relief scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39569/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

This important project is now at an advanced stage with detailed design work nearing completion to determine the final design plan for the flood alleviation works.

Hydraulic modelling required for the design of the proposed channel diversion established that there was a need for an in-stream flow control structure to minimise the overall environmental impact on the river system.

Necessary work is now taking place to identify ecological and environmental constraints associated with the in-stream works required for the proposed flow-control structure. These include reducing velocities to ensure no damage to the bed of the river and associated ecosystems, and minimising impacts on the pearl mussel and crayfish populations, and adhering to EU legislation in relation to alluvial woodlands.

The project team is ensuring that any tasks that can be progressed in parallel with the above environmental assessment will be prioritised, in order to minimise any programme delays.

It is anticipated that the detailed design and preparation of the relevant documentation should be completed to allow the proposed scheme to be submitted to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for formal Confirmation under the Arterial Drainage Act by the end of the year.

Following Confirmation and tendering it is anticipated that the scheme should progress to construction in the second half of 2020.

Once the proposed scheme is confirmed, the OPW will contact landowners directly in order to provide information and advice prior to construction commencing.

As previously highlighted, in the interim, the following measures are in place to help alleviate the flooding problems in the town pending the delivery of the flood relief scheme:

- Individual Property Protection (IPP): The OPW and Mayo County Council in conjunction with the local Flood Action Group, have substantially progressed the pilot IPP project for Crossmolina, which has already installed floodgates in approximately 100 properties.

- Maintenance: The OPW has carried out maintenance works including lowering of the berm downstream of Jack Garrett Bridge.

- Minor Works: The OPW has also approved Mayo County Council's application for funding for a number of minor works projects in the town, and these have been put in place by the Council.

I can assure the Deputy that the OPW will continue to work constructively with Mayo County Council and the local Flood Action Group to take all feasible interim measures to alleviate the risk of flooding in the town.

Crossmolina is a priority project within the OPW’s flood investment programme and the project team are working hard to minimise further delays and to bring this much needed project to construction and completion.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (76)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

76. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he has identified Departments likely to overrun on capital or current spending; his action in regard to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39519/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Estimates for Public Services 2019 set out total gross voted expenditure of €66.6 billion for this year. Of this, €59.3 billion is gross voted current expenditure, while €7.3 billion is gross voted capital expenditure.

The effective and efficient delivery of public services within budgetary allocations is a key responsibility of each Minister and Department. In relation to spending, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is in regular contact with all other Departments and Offices to ensure that expenditure is being managed within the overall fiscal parameters. The drawdown of funds from the Exchequer is reported on each month against expenditure profiles in the Fiscal Monitor published by the Department of Finance.

As set out in the most recent Fiscal Monitor, total gross voted expenditure at end-August 2019 was €42,015 million. This is €262 million, or 0.6%, below profile. Gross voted current expenditure of €38,653 million, is €132 million, or 0.3% below profile. Of the 17 Ministerial Vote groups, 14 are on or below profile on current expenditure for end-August. Gross voted capital expenditure of €3,362 million, is €130 million, or 3.7% below profile and up €683 million, or 25.5% on the same period last year. The end-September Fiscal monitor will be published later this week.

At this stage in the year, it is too early to definitively state what the requirement for Supplementary Estimates will be at year-end. Expenditure Report 2020, which will be published on Budget Day, will set out an initial assessment of any necessary additional expenditure for 2019. This would take into account any policy decisions, such as relating to a Social Welfare Christmas Bonus, and any emerging expenditure pressures. While the end-August position is encouraging, there is a particular challenge in the Health sector, where the year-on-year increase to the end of August illustrates the challenge and the need for staffing and savings measures to be proactively managed by the Department of Health. There are also potential pressures in the areas of Justice and Education.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (77)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

77. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when decisions will be made on applications for capital projects in County Kildare under Project Ireland 2040; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39640/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I understand that other Ministers will also be answering this question in respect of their Departments.

Due to the nature of its role, my Department does not have any capital projects funded from its own Vote as part of Project Ireland 2040. The main purpose of capital projects and associated investment undertaken by my Department is to support greater effectiveness and efficiency across the Civil and Public Service. While all counties ultimately benefit from this, any capital expenditure is primarily invested in the Department's ICT systems to support and develop the ICT function across Government.

More generally, my role as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is to oversee the effective implementation of the National Development Plan 2018-2027 and to maintain the national frameworks such as the Public Spending Code within which Departments operate to ensure appropriate accounting for, and value for money in, public expenditure.

My Department does not have a direct role in overseeing projects being progressed by other Departments. That responsibility rests with the appropriate Minister responsible for the Sanctioning Authority who approved the project, under the policy of delegated sanction that operates in relation to capital expenditure within the capital budgets allocated to line Ministers/Departments.

The Deputy will be aware that the Public Spending Code sets out the oversight and approval process for public expenditure proposals including capital projects. The responsibilities which lie with different roles are clearly set out in the Code. The Department or agency proposing and implementing a project is responsible for appraisal, planning, implementation, management and post project review of the project. It is known as the Sponsoring Agency. The Department or body funding the project is responsible for approval in principle following appraisal, pre-tender approval, and post tender approval if the project has significantly changed. It is known as the Sanctioning Authority.

Health Services Expenditure

Ceisteanna (78)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

78. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if multi-annual funding for elements of the health budget has been considered in budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39641/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Mid-Year Expenditure Report, published in July of this year, set out baseline current expenditure ceilings on a Ministerial level to 2022. These ceilings are inclusive of pre-committed expenditure of €0.5 billion per annum for demographics in the areas of Health, Social Protection and Education. These are primary areas of current expenditure that are particularly impacted by demographic pressures. These demographic projections are informed by the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) paper ‘Budgetary Impacts of Changing Demographics 2017 – 2027.’ The paper can be found on the IGEES website here: https://igees.gov.ie/budgetary-impact-of-changing-demographics-2017-to-2027/.

This paper covers a number of areas of expenditure, including pensions, child benefit, education provision and in health areas such as the acute hospitals, PCRS, community and Nursing Home Support Scheme. These pure demographic costs are factored in to Ministerial Expenditure Ceilings for Health, Social Protection and Education. The following table shows these costs for the period to 2022.

-

2020

2021

2022

€m

€m

€m

Education & Skills Group

54

47

47

Employment Affairs & Social Protection Group

260

260

260

Health Group

137

148

148

Total

451

455

455

Going beyond the period set out in the Mid-Year Expenditure Report, the paper suggests demographic costs of approximately €0.4 billion in 2023 and 2024. However, as part of the 2019 Spending Review process, an update of this paper is due to be published. This forthcoming paper will again look at the key areas of Health, Social Protection and Education and will examine demographic pressures in these areas over a ten year period.

More generally, introducing multi-annual funding for the totality of the Health budget would involve considerable challenges, not least in terms of establishing confidence in the soundness of the underlying financial management systems and in the ability of the Health system as a whole to plan and manage its resources on both an annual and multi-annual basis. I am hopeful that the improved leadership and governance arrangements that have recently been put in place in the Health sector, including the establishment of the HSE Board, may help to underpin confidence in such areas into the future.

Flood Relief Schemes

Ceisteanna (79)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

79. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the preferred options for the flood relief works on the Sullane river, Ballyvourney, County Cork, will be finalised; the impediments delaying this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39639/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Mid-Year Expenditure Report, published in July of this year, set out baseline current expenditure ceilings on a Ministerial level to 2022. These ceilings are inclusive of pre-committed expenditure of €0.5 billion per annum for demographics in the areas of Health, Social Protection and Education. These are primary areas of current expenditure that are particularly impacted by demographic pressures. These demographic projections are informed by the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) paper ‘Budgetary Impacts of Changing Demographics 2017 – 2027.’ The paper can be found on the IGEES website here: https://igees.gov.ie/budgetary-impact-of-changing-demographics-2017-to-2027/.

This paper covers a number of areas of expenditure, including pensions, child benefit, education provision and in health areas such as the acute hospitals, PCRS, community and Nursing Home Support Scheme. These pure demographic costs are factored in to Ministerial Expenditure Ceilings for Health, Social Protection and Education. The following table shows these costs for the period to 2022.

-

2020

2021

2022

€m

€m

€m

Education & Skills Group

54

47

47

Employment Affairs & Social Protection Group

260

260

260

Health Group

137

148

148

Total

451

455

455

Going beyond the period set out in the Mid-Year Expenditure Report, the paper suggests demographic costs of approximately €0.4 billion in 2023 and 2024. However, as part of the 2019 Spending Review process, an update of this paper is due to be published. This forthcoming paper will again look at the key areas of Health, Social Protection and Education and will examine demographic pressures in these areas over a ten year period.

More generally, introducing multi-annual funding for the totality of the Health budget would involve considerable challenges, not least in terms of establishing confidence in the soundness of the underlying financial management systems and in the ability of the Health system as a whole to plan and manage its resources on both an annual and multi-annual basis. I am hopeful that the improved leadership and governance arrangements that have recently been put in place in the Health sector, including the establishment of the HSE Board, may help to underpin confidence in such areas into the future.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (80)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

80. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on Exchequer expenditure requirements in order to implement the all-of-Government climate action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39369/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Government's Climate Action Plan puts Ireland on a pathway to the achievement of the country's 2030 climate and energy targets that are consistent with a net zero emissions target by 2050.

The plan sets out ambitious emissions savings targets for sectors of the economy. The Departments responsible for the achievement of these targets will, over the coming months, be developing the policies and measures required to reach these targets. These policies and measures will incorporate a blend of expenditure, taxation, regulation and behavioural change initiatives that will encourage the investment decisions required across the public and private sectors, as well as by individual citizens, to achieve these targets.

Much of the Exchequer investment required to support these policies and measures was already anticipated and provided for through the commitments included in the National Development Plan (NDP), which includes over €30bn in investment to fund the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society and initiatives in sustainable mobility.

The Government has agreed that the cumulative Exchequer costs of the commitments included in the Climate Action Plan will be delivered within the existing multi-annual ceilings and the funding commitments made in the NDP.

In addition to this, any new revenue raised from any increase in the carbon tax in 2020 will be ring-fenced and used to fund new climate action measures, including just transition.