Hospital Waiting Lists Data

Ceisteanna (356)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

356. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the number of patients awaiting cardiovascular procedures; the length of time they have been on waiting lists for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49154/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital operations and procedures is a key priority for Government. In this regard, the Government is committed to improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures.

The latest published National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures for October show that there are 3,969 patients on the Cardiology Inpatient and Daycase (IPDC) waiting list. Of these, 75% (2,964) are waiting 6 months or less and 86% (3,429) are waiting 9 months or less. With regard to cardiology long waiters, there are 341 patients waiting over 12 months, which is a 13% decrease when compared to the same period last year.

The latest NTPF figures show that there 651 patients on the Cardio-Thoracic Surgery IPDC waiting list. Of these, 67% (437) are waiting 6 months or less and 82% (533) are waiting 9 months or less.

In recent years, my Department has worked with the HSE and NTPF to make considerable improvements to access for patients waiting for high volume procedures and life limiting procedures including angiograms. Waiting list figures for the end of October 2019 show that the number of people waiting nationally for an angiogram procedure has decreased, from 3,149 in July 2017 to 2,037. In this same period, there has also been a reduction of 83% in the number of patients waiting over 9 months for an angiogram procedure.

Budget 2020 announced that the Government has further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the NTPF increasing from €75 million in 2019 to €100 million in 2020.

My Department is working with the HSE and NTPF to develop the Scheduled Care Access Plan 2020. The National Service Plan 2020 will set out HSE planned activity level for the year ahead, while the NTPF will work with the hospital system to provide additionality to improve access to inpatient/daycase treatment and with a particular focus on hospital outpatient services.

In this regard, I would encourage all hospital groups and individual hospitals to engage with the NTPF to identify waiting list proposals for the remainder of this year and for 2020. 

The data requested by the deputy is outlined in the documents at the link.

Cardiology & Cardio-Thoracic Surgery IPDC Waiting Times

Hospital Waiting Lists Data

Ceisteanna (357)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

357. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the average length of time patients can expect to wait for orthopaedic procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49155/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital operations and procedures is a key priority for Government. In this regard, the Government is committed to improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures.

The latest published National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures for October show that there are 10,033 patients on the orthopaedics Inpatient and Daycase (IPDC) waiting list. Of these, 67% (6,743) are waiting 6 months or less, 80% (7,993) are waiting 9 months or less and 86% (8,616) are waiting 12 months or less.  In regard to orthopaedics long waiters, there are 1,417 patients waiting over 12 months, which shows a 14% decrease when compared to the same period last year. Overall, the orthopaedics IPDC waiting list has decreased by 6% (-672) when compared to the same period last year.

Under the Inpatient Day Case Access Plans for 2018 and 2019, Hip/Knee replacements were among the procedures targeted by the NTPF, and by the end of October 2019, the number of people waiting nationally for a Hip/Knee replacement procedure had decreased, from 3,476 in July 2017 to 2,586. In this same period, there has also been a reduction of 73% in the number of patients waiting over 9 months for a Hip/Knee replacement procedure. In this context, the NTPF has advised my Department that they have approved a number of IPDC proposals for orthopaedics in 2019, providing up to 2,038 procedures for patients.

Budget 2020 announced that the Government has further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the NTPF increasing from €75 million in 2019 to €100 million in 2020.

My Department is working with the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund to develop the Scheduled Care Access Plan 2020. The National Service Plan 2020 will set out HSE planned activity level for the year ahead, while the NTPF will work with the hospital system to provide additionality to improve access to inpatient/daycase treatment and with a particular focus on hospital outpatient services.

In this regard, I would encourage all hospital groups and individual hospitals to engage with the NTPF to identify waiting list proposals for the remainder of this year and for 2020. 

The waiting times for Orthopaedic procedures is outlined in the document at the link.

Waiting times for Orthopaedic procedures

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (358)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

358. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the adequacy of the 2020 health budget notwithstanding the experience in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49156/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Budget 2020 sets out a budget of over €18.3 billion for health and social care services, the highest budget ever allocated. The Health budget increased by €1.2 billion on 2019, a substantial additional level of funding, particularly bearing in mind that Budget 2020 was framed in a no deal Brexit scenario. The amount allocated follows an extensive process of engagement between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which considered both the funding requirements and the fiscal position. These types of engagements are a normal part of the Budgetary process and happen with Departments across Government. All Departments put forward spending proposals but are required to operate within the amounts proposed by Government and determined by the Dáil. 

The issue of health funding is a major policy challenge for both the Irish and international Governments.  Despite welcome increases annually, the need for effective financial management remains crucial as the health service deals with a larger and older population, with more acute health and social care requirements, increased demand for new and existing drugs and the rising costs of health technology.  The costs associated with these service pressures will increasingly need to be managed not solely through annual increased Exchequer allocations but also through improved efficiencies, productivity and value from within the funding base.

Under legislation the Health Service Executive is required to set out in the National Service Plan, the type and volume of health and social care services to be provided having regard to the funding available. The Health Service Executive were directed that the 2020 Plan was to be developed and implemented within the statutory limit determined and that expenditure controls and savings measures were fully achievable next year. As part of this process to secure the most effective delivery of services possible within the resources available the Health Service Executive were required to ensure that the greatest value possible was achieved from the entirety of the resources that were allocated.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (359)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

359. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when a medical procedure will be scheduled for a person (details supplied). [49159/19]

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.

GLAS Payments

Ceisteanna (360)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

360. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the delay in a GLAS payment being issued to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48590/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named was approved into the GLAS 1 scheme with a contract commencement date of 1 October 2015 and received payments for scheme years 2015 - 2017 and the 2018 Advance payment.

In this case, the application has not yet passed the pre-payment validation checks for the 2018 balance due to issues with the associated BPS application. Once this issue is resolved and the application clears all validations, the 2018 balance payment will be processed and the case will move forward for processing of the 2019 claim. 

GLAS payments continue to issue on a weekly basis.

Forestry Grants

Ceisteanna (361)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

361. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when an application by a person (details supplied) to plant trees, which was submitted in April 2019, will be assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48664/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

An application for the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme was received for the person named in April this year.  The assessment of the site takes in seven different SACs, two of which must be considered in-depth, due to the nature of the SAC and its proximity.  The assessment of the application is on-going and is being in carried out in accordance with recently revised Appropriate Assessment Procedures (AAP) .

I acknowledge that changes made to internal Appropriate Assessment Procedures (AAP) has resulted in delays to many files.  These are beyond my Department’s control as officials are obliged to implement changes to AAP that were required following important Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decisions and their subsequent interpretation by the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) and others. All forestry licences issued by the Department undergo a legal consent process. Since 2017, all forestry licence applications received have been subject to a statutory public notification system and are subject to a statutory appeal system operated by the FAC.

Most appeals have been in connection with our Appropriate Assessment (AA) procedure.  The Habitat Directive (Article 6.3) requires that where a plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a Natura site, either individually or in-combination with other plans or projects, it must undergo an appropriate assessment of its implications for that Natura site.  

Currently, we are amending the AA procedure in order to introduce a robust and workable system which will address the issues now faced.  Introducing this system involves the recruitment of additional ecological expertise and changes in procedures for the forestry inspectorate.  Last week, the Department advertised for ecologists and we also have access to external ecological support, which will be supplemented in due course.  Inspectors have already undergone training and will receive appropriate support in delivering these new procedures; they are not on a work to rule. A categorisation of files affected by these requirements is also underway in order to best assess further action needed and by whom.

I am fully aware of the concerns of applicants, such as the person named, and other stakeholders in the sector, in relation to the AA process.  My officials are in regular communication with stakeholders and they have been fully apprised of the issues involved and of my Department’s efforts to address them.  They have also been advised of steps they can take to ensure that applications received are completed to an acceptable standard and to take account of any issues relating to sensitive habitats.

Basic Payment Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (362)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

362. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a farm payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48670/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named submitted a 2019 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application on 9 May 2019 in which he declared a share on the Dunloe Upper Commonage in County Kerry. 

An over claim has occurred on this commonage and my Department is currently reviewing this over claim.  This over claim is impacting on payment under the BPS, ANC and GLAS schemes.  An official from my Department has been in touch with the person named regarding this over claim with a view to having this resolved at the earliest opportunity.

Basic Payment Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (363)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

363. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if basic payment entitlements will be returned to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48720/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named has been an applicant under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) from 2015 to 2019.

Applicants under the BPS were allocated payment entitlements in 2015.  These are paid annually on the basis that a BPS application is submitted and the applicant declares an eligible hectare of agricultural land per entitlement.

The Terms and Conditions booklet for the BPS is circulated annually to all farmers.  In this booklet, the requirements in relation to usage of BPS entitlements are outlined.  Under these requirements, all BPS entitlements allocated are subject to a two-year usage rule.  In effect, should a farmer have unused entitlements for two consecutive years, the entitlements will be reverted to the National Reserve in the second year of non-usage. 

A farmer’s usage position is available for them to view at any time on the online system where it clearly states the number of available entitlements and the number which have been used in each year. 

For scheme year 2018, the person named held 23 entitlements and submitted a BPS application on 6 April 2018 declaring 12.39 hectares of eligible land.  In scheme year 2019, the person named submitted a BPS application on 19 April 2019 again only declaring 12.39 hectares of eligible land.  As he did not declare sufficient lands, over a two-year period to support all 23 entitlements held, the unused entitlements have been reverted to the National Reserve.

It is noted that under the 2018 BPS application, the person named deleted a parcel of land from his application amounting to 10.48 hectares of land and did not declare this land on his 2019 BPS application either. 

The Deputy has mentioned that the entitlements were unused in error as the person named was recently suffering from ill health.  Officials from my Department will contact the person named in this regard.

Farm Inspections

Ceisteanna (364)

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

364. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a farm inspection on land in an area (details supplied) will be carried out rather than a desk study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48757/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the current Rural Development Regulation (and subsequent amendments under the Omnibus Regulation), Member States were required to change the approach to the designation of land under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme. Previously, my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio-economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture, and stocking density.  

From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using the following list of bio-physical criteria:

- Low temperature

- Dryness

- Excess soil moisture

- Limited soil drainage

- Unfavourable texture and stoniness

- Shallow rooting depth

- Poor chemical properties

- Steep slope 

In tandem with the process to designate relevant lands under these biophysical criteria, Member States were also required to undertake a fine tuning process. This process was required to identify areas where significant natural constraints were identified with reference to the above-listed biophysical criteria, but where objective criteria, such as arable land use or stocking density levels, would indicated that these constraints have been overcome.

Finally, Member States could also identify areas for inclusion as Areas of Specific Constraint where it is necessary for land management to be continued in order to conserve or improve the environment, to maintain the countryside, to preserve the tourist potential of the area, or to protect the coastline.

This three-phased process was a lengthy project, involving protracted technical engagements with the EU DG for Agriculture and Rural Development and the Joint Research Centre in the EU Commission. The technical process was completed in late 2018 and, at that time, further to a series of consultation meetings with key stakeholders, I published full details in relation to the outcome of the review project, which can be summarised as follows.

The vast majority of land that was eligible under the existing Scheme remains eligible under the new approach. Some 700 townlands that would have previously been eligible are not eligible under the new designation. Farmers impacted financially by this change will receive a degressive phasing out payment in 2019 and 2020. Over 2,000 townlands will now be eligible under the new approach and will be eligible to receive a payment for the first time in 2019.

An independently chaired Appeals Committee was appointed to examine any requests received by my Department for a full review on the status of a townland under the 2019 ANC Scheme. This process is currently under way and it is anticipated that the process will be completed in the coming weeks.  An appeal has been submitted to the Committee for the townland in question.  Given the independent nature of the appeals process, it is a matter for the Committee to decide on the most appropriate approach to resolving the appeals received.

Departmental Properties

Ceisteanna (365)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

365. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the newly developed public park on the site of a plant (details supplied) at Haulbowline, County Cork, will open to the general public; when the land in question will be formally transferred to Cork County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48900/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the former waste disposal site known as the East Tip on Haulbowline Island.  I am sincerely impressed at the transformation that has taken place there since contracts were signed in July 2017 to deliver remediation works.  All of the works have now been completed and it really is incredible to see that where there was once a bleak post-industrial vista there is now a beautifully landscaped park.  It was heartening to hear last weekend that Engineers Ireland conferred the project with their highest award and I offer my congratulations to all involved in the Council, in my own Department and the contractors who delivered this project.

As of October, charge of the site has been returned to Cork County Council which acts as my Agent for operational matters at Haulbowline.  The Council has requested permission to operate the site as a public recreational amentiy.  It is important to note that the main occupancy of the island is the headquarters for the Irish Naval Service and the Government has accordingly decided that ownership of the island will ultimately transfer to the Minister for Defence.  My Department, as the current owner of Haulbowline Island, is actively engaged with representatives of the Department of Defence and Cork County Council to put in place the appropriate mechanisms, including a lease for the Council, to facilitate the operation of the recreational amenity. 

The ultimate opening date of the facility will be a matter for Cork County Council in due course.

Environmental Policy

Ceisteanna (366)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

366. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when he plans to launch a code of good practice which will set out measures to reduce ammonia emissions over the coming years. [48901/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Following a consultative process earlier this year, the Code of Good Agricultural Practice for Reducing Ammonia Emissions from Agriculture was launched on Wednesday 20th November 2019 and can be found on my Department's website. www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/ruralenvironment/climatechange/bioenergy/codeofgoodagpracticeammoniaemissions/1CodeofGoodAgriculturalPracticeforreducingAmmoniaEmissions081119.pdf.

The Code acts as a guidance document that outlines best practice actions to help reduce ammonia emissions from our farms.  Ammonia emissions arise principally from fertiliser and manure applications, animal feeding strategies, animal housing and manure storage and can have negative impacts on health and biodiversity.  Ireland has clear targets to deliver in terms of reduced ammonia emissions and the adoption and implementation of the voluntary measures outlined in this Code will reduce the risk of Ireland exceeding its ammonia emissions ceilings into the future.

My Department is already supporting delivery of actions within this guidance document through the provision of support for investments in technology such as Low Emission slurry application technology such as the trailing shoe and trailing hose. To date, my Department has approved over 2,000 applications under the TAMS II Scheme and has already paid approximately €19 million to farmers for this technology.

As agriculture is responsible for approximately 99% of ammonia emissions, it is vital that the agri-food sector continues to build on the good work achieved to date. The Code will support them in achieving this objective.

Agriculture Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (367)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

367. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there will be a second round of applications under the BEAM scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48957/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) has provided temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132.  Under the terms of that regulation, and the scheme as notified to the European Commission, it is not possible to open a second round of applications for the measure.

GLAS Payments

Ceisteanna (368)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

368. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a GLAS payment for 2018 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48979/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named is fully up to date with his GLAS payments.

Organic Farming Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (369)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

369. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a person (details supplied) was not accepted onto the organic farming scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48981/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Organic Farming Scheme is one of the most successful schemes under our current Rural Development Programme.  A budget of €56m was allocated to fund the Scheme opened during the period 2014 to 2020 which was the largest allocation ever to an Organics support scheme.

The Scheme has more than achieved its targets in terms of new land converted and the maintenance of organic land. The area of land under organic production has expanded dramatically as a direct result of my Department's investment. Latest figures indicate that there are now some 72,000 hectares under organic production, an increase of nearly 50% on the position at the start of the Programme in 2014.

As a further vote of confidence in the organics sector by this Government, my colleague Minister Doyle established an Organics Strategy Group last year comprising relevant stakeholders and state bodies. Part of the remit of the Strategy Group was to consider the case for a possible re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme. They recommended that it should be re-opened but on a targeted basis. The sectors targeted were areas for which there is a clear market demand, and which are critical to the further development of the Organic Sector, namely horticulture, cereals and dairy.  This recommendation acknowledged that the budget was very limited given the success of the current scheme and the overall spending within the RDP.

The terms and conditions of the Scheme state that an applicant must reach a minimum ranking of 25 marks to be deemed eligible for consideration for inclusion in the Scheme.  They further state that the number of applications to be accepted into the Scheme will be determined by funding and that the submission of a valid application does not guarantee entry to the Scheme. 

No changes were made to the minimum ranking of 25 marks - it is the same as in previous OFS under the current RDP. Once applicants reached the minimum ranking of 25 and met the other eligibility criteria, they were then assessed under the Ranking and Selection system in accordance with the criteria agreed by the Organic Sector Strategy Group.

The person named, although eligible for consideration, did not score high enough to be selected in this tranche.  Their score was below the minimum score that was ultimately accepted into the Scheme. It should also be noted that their major enterprise was not one of the targeted enterprises identified by the Organic Strategy Group.  

It is important to note that this is a targeted re-opening and that I fully expect that there will be a new Organics scheme under the next CAP. I would encourage all stakeholders to make their views known on the shape of this future scheme as part of the wider CAP consultation process.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme

Ceisteanna (370)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

370. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48991/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named submitted an application under the Animal Welfare, Safety and Nutrient Storage Scheme of TAMS II.  The application was approved and a payment claim was subsequently submitted. By virtue of the penalty section in the terms and conditions of the scheme, a penalty/reduction was applied in this case.  Payment was made to the person named on 14 March 2019 less a penalty/reduction as a result. 

The penalty applied in this case is currently being reviewed. The outcome of this review will be notified, in writing, directly to the person named as soon as it has been completed.

Greyhound Industry

Ceisteanna (371)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

371. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to end grants to the greyhound industry in view of an opinion poll (details supplied); if he will review the allocation to the industry in view of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49004/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.   

Under Section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001 (No.20 of 2001), the horse and greyhound racing industries receive financial support from the State through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund (the Fund). Monies are paid out of the fund in the ratio of 80% to Horse Racing Ireland and 20% to Bord na gCon as specified in Section 12 (6) of the Act.  State funding provided through the Fund is pivotal to the survival of the horse and greyhound racing industries. 

According to the 2017 Power Report, the greyhound industry provides and supports considerable employment both directly and indirectly across the Irish economy.  It is estimated that, in 2016, the industry supported 5,058 full-time and part-time jobs in the economy. In addition, there are 7,313 active greyhound owners. The total number of people deriving economic benefit from the sector is estimated at 12,371.  It is an industry that is ingrained in the social and cultural networks of rural Ireland.

It is worth noting that the Greyhound Sector has undergone a series of reforms in recent times.  The Greyhound Racing Act 2019 which was signed by the President on 28 May 2019 strengthens the legal basis for the industry, with a view to fortifying the integrity of the greyhound racing sector and improving provision for greyhound traceability. Bord na gCon will continue to invest significant resources into regulation and greyhound welfare and it intends to devote more resources to welfare, re-homing and traceability. 

Any suspension of funds would have immediate consequences for employment in the sector and could have unintended consequences for the welfare of dogs used for racing and coursing. Future financial support of the greyhound industry will entail a refocusing of funding towards welfare initiatives in the first instance - making welfare standards the centrepiece of the industry.

Bord na gCon

Ceisteanna (372)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

372. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Irish Greyhound Board is attempting to hide incidents involving dogs falling and suffering injuries by withholding race footage from its website (details supplied); if he will direct it to publish the footage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49005/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  

Bord na gCon have informed the Department that, although it broadcasts all races at Bord na gCon licensed stadia, there is no regulatory or legislative requirement on Bord na gCon to make all racing footage available on its website.  

Bord na gCon collates figures relating to the injuries of greyhounds at all 16 licensed stadia, as well as statistics relating to greyhounds put to sleep. Any greyhound injured or put to sleep at a track is included in these figures. These are published on a regular basis. 

Bord na gCon have reiterated that greyhound injuries at stadia are rare. Bord na gCon control stewards carry out a track inspection prior to all race meetings and trial sessions. The track vet attends all race meetings and sales trials to ensure that appropriate care is provided to injured greyhounds and to advise the stewards on welfare.

In August 2019, Bord na gCon launched a greyhound injury support scheme to provide financial assistance to owners to aid injured greyhounds to continue with a healthy life. The introduction of the “Injuries at Tracks Recovery Scheme” is open to all owners and trainers who have incurred veterinary costs in the treatment of greyhounds to repair a career-ending orthopaedic (bone) injury sustained at an IGB licenced stadium. Applications are assessed on the basis that the greyhound will immediately retire from competitive action (trials and races) following its treatment. 

A number of improvements to various stadia, including track improvements, the installation of new hare rails and the purchase of new equipment, have been made in recent times. Bord na gCon emphasises that the very best veterinary care and advice is provided to greyhounds injured at stadia at all times.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (373)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

373. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an Irish greyhound that is believed to have suffered whippings has been rescued from Spain; if he will recommend an end to exports to Spain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49006/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  

Bord na gCon have informed me that they unreservedly condemn cruelty to any greyhound. They are aware of this case, and have confirmed that the greyhound’s Irish owner had complied with the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 in the sale of the greyhound.

The movement of all breeds of dogs, including greyhounds, between EU member states is currently set at a European level rather than as a national measure in isolation. Bord na gCon continues to advise owners to only export to destinations that provide the expected levels of greyhound welfare through its Code of Practice which is monitored and updated regularly.

Bord na gCon have stated they will continue to do everything possible within their remit to prevent exports of greyhounds to countries that do not have acceptable animal welfare regimes.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (374)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

374. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he plans to assist beef producers attain at least the average EU price for their livestock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49069/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Irish Government has provided significant financial support to the beef sector over the past number of years through national funding and the rural development programme.

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) provides Irish beef farmers with up to €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) and provides a high degree of important performance data to beef farmers to drive efficiency through facilitating better decision making.

My Department has rolled out a range of other schemes from which beef farmers benefit, as part of the €4 billion RDP including GLAS, ANCs and Knowledge Transfer Groups. Suckler farmers also benefit, of course, from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments under CAP Pillar I.

In 2019, a further €20 million of exchequer funding was made available through the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme, to encourage farmers to measure the weaning efficiency of their suckler cows.

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) has provided temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132.

BEAM is funded by a combination of EU aid and Exchequer support, provided in light of the difficult circumstances that Irish beef farmers have been facing as a result of the market volatility. Over 34,500 farmers had applied for BEAM at its closing date of 20 September, representing potential commitments of up to €78 million.

In recognition of the important income support role played by the ANC scheme, the total allocation for the scheme has been increased by €48m over the last two budgets (€25m in Budget 2018 and €23m in Budget 2019). In both 2018 and 2019, payment rates in the scheme were increased, with a targeting of increases corresponding to the different level of constraint in the different categories of land in the scheme.

In Budget 2020, I have provided almost €85 million in targeted schemes to support sustainable beef farming. This includes almost €45 million for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), and a further €40 million for targeted supports. I intend to consult with stakeholders as to the use of these funds. 

In addition, in the event of a No-Deal Brexit, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed in Budget 2020 that a Brexit contingency fund of €650 million will be available to support our most vulnerable sectors, to be activated in tranches as the full impacts emerge. €110 million will be made available through my Department in the first tranche, of which €85 million will be provided in immediate supports for beef farmers. This will, of course, be supplemented by any exceptional aid provided from the EU under the CMO regulation.

There have been a series of formal negotiations with beef sector stakeholders, facilitated by my Department, since early August, culminating in an agreement being reached between stakeholders on Sunday 15 September.

The full text of the Agreement and updates on work progressed to date is available on my  Department's website: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/beef/beeftaskforce/

The Agreement involves a number of interventions which will provide immediate benefit for beef producers, as well as a range of strategic measures which seek to address structural imbalances in the sector.

Beef producers will benefit from an immediate increase in a range of bonuses. This will increase the level of bonus being paid on certain animals, as well as significantly increasing the number of animals which are eligible for a bonus. The cumulative effect is that over 70% of all steer and heifers slaughtered will now be eligible for a bonus on top of the base price paid.

A number of actions in the area of market transparency, beef promotion and strengthening the position of the farmer in the supply chain are included in the Agreement. These measures set a course towards greater clarity for all stakeholders involved in the beef supply chain, primarily farmers.

My Department is also proactively engaging with several potential beef Producer Organisations, which have to potential to strengthen the bargaining power of beef farmers in the supply chain.  Two beef producer organisations have been formally recognised by my Department in recent weeks.

I have established a Beef Market Taskforce to provide the leadership to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability. It was deeply regrettable that the first meeting scheduled for 14 October was unable to proceed. However the independent chair and Department officials continue to engage proactively with Taskforce members with a view to enabling its important work to progress.

Trade Missions play an important role in promoting the Irish agri-food sector and in market development, and I have been very active on this front in recent years as we strive to gain and develop a presence in as many global markets as possible. A significant achievement was gaining access to the Chinese market for beef in 2018 and expanding this access to 14 further beef plants in 2019.  Access was also achieved for beef to Qatar, Kuwait and Ukraine in 2018 and improved conditions for export agreed with Japan in 2019.

I am very aware of the significant difficulites facing beef farmers as a result of a sustained period of low prices.  However, I believe that the range of financial and developmental supports available, coupled with the prioritisation of optimising access to third country markets is the correct path to continue on and I plan to support the sector by building on this work.

Alternative Farm Enterprises

Ceisteanna (375, 376)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

375. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he can take to explore the possibility of farmers being able to grow hemp as a crop; the impediments that exist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49116/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

376. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the analysis carried out to examine potential markets for hemp grown here as a crop; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49117/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 375 and 376 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, current legislation does not allow for the growing of hemp unless a specific licence has been granted by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) which operates under the auspices of the Department of Health. In addition the cultivation of hemp (Cannabis genus) is restricted to varieties having less than 0.2% content of the narcotic compound Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis (which includes hemp) is listed in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017, as amended which means it is subject to the strictest level of control.

Earlier this year, my Department concluded a broad consultation which included relevant bodies/agencies in an examination of growing hemp commercially. The consultation included the Departments of Health, Justice and Law Reform, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, Teagasc and the two representative bodies for Hemp.

A clear view arising from respondents in the consultation involved in regulation is that the domestic hemp industry should continue to be controlled and regulated by the Department of Health and that the current stringent controls in relation to growing hemp should continue. This strict regulation is in line with the situation in many other countries.

An oversupply of industrial hemp in the European market has resulted in current low value for the majority of products from hemp. A number of large scale hemp processing facilities in Europe have failed and the lack of processing facilities in Ireland, which are required to be in close proximity to hemp growers, is also an issue.

Officials of my Department have met with industry representatives on a number of occasions and it is clear from all of those consultations that further in-depth research and financial analysis is required to be undertaken by the industry in order to determine if the establishment of processing facilities in Ireland is commercially viable.  While my Department remains available to assist, it must be borne in mind that any development in this area must be industry-led.

National Broadband Plan Expenditure

Ceisteanna (377)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

377. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the funding his Department is providing in respect of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48596/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to a high speed broadband service. The signing of the contract with National Broadband Ireland on the 19th of this month will enable that aim to become reality in the coming years. The procurement process for the National Broadband Plan has determined that the maximum cost to the State over the 25 year term of the contract will be €2.143bn, excluding VAT of €355m and excluding contingency of €480m.

My Department has a capital allocation in 2020 for the National Broadband Plan of €119 million. The multi-annual expenditure ceilings for Capital Expenditure for my Department are published in the Budget 2020 Expenditure Report. The total capital expenditure ceiling for my Department for 2021 is €517m and for 2022 is €611m. The detailed allocations required for the NBP for 2021 and for subsequent years of the NBP will be settled in the context of the annual Estimates process.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (378, 393, 394, 395, 402)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

378. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the launch he attended of the national broadband plan. [48836/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

393. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment ·the role played by his Department in the organisation or funding of an event to sign the national broadband plan which took place in County Wicklow on 19 November 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48926/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

394. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the criteria by which the attendees of an event to sign the national broadband plan which took place in County Wicklow on 19 November 2019 were chosen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48927/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

395. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department was asked to invite candidates in the upcoming general election to an event to sign the national broadband plan which took place in County Wicklow on 19 November 2019; the declared candidates who do not hold office who attended; the mechanism by which they were invited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48928/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Casey

Ceist:

402. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the costs associated with the launch of the national broadband plan in Laragh, County Wicklow, on 21 November 2019. [49143/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 378, 393 to 395, inclusive, and 402 together.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) is the Government’s plan to rollout high speed broadband to the 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises including almost 100,000 businesses and farms, and 695 schools, where commercial operators will not commit to deliver the service.

On the 19 November, the Government signed the contract for delivering the NBP State intervention network with National Broadband Ireland.

The contract signing and related Government press conference took place at St. Kevin’s National School in Laragh Co. Wicklow.

The event also comprised of a visit to the nearby Brockagh Resource Centre in Laragh by myself and cabinet colleagues to meet with local stakeholders who will be beneficiaries of the State intervention roll out.

Both of these locations were chosen as they are Broadband Connection Points, community based locations which will benefit from the rollout of high speed broadband in the first year of deployment.

Those invited reflected the nature of the event and included, members of the local community, Government Ministers, representatives of Wicklow County Council, ComReg Commissioners and Officials from a number of Government Departments.

Costs to be met by my Department relate to the provision of transport for staff to the venue, light refreshments for the attendees, together with logistics for the staging of the event which was facilitated by the OPW, including PA system and audio visual facilities. The relevant invoices have yet to be received, verified and paid.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (379, 380)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

379. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to extend high-speed fibre broadband to a household (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48547/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

380. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to extend high-speed fibre broadband to a household (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48548/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 379 and 380 together.

The National Broadband Plan is the Government’s plan to rollout high speed broadband to the 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises including almost 100,000 businesses and farms, and over 695 schools, where commercial operators will not commit to deliver the service.

The Deputy's Questions relate to two premises which are both located in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the areas to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led Intervention, the contract for which was signed on 19 November with National Broadband Ireland (NBI).

Approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) will be deployed across all counties during 2020. The BCPs will be located in community centres, schools, library hubs and local GAA halls and will enable communities to get free public access to high speed broadband. The BCP locations are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.dccae.gov.ie.

NBI will pass approximately 10,000 premises by the end of 2020. By the end of 2021, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises, with 70,000 - 100,000 passed each year thereafter until rollout is completed. NBI has indicated that the network rollout will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

A deployment plan will be made available by NBI shortly. Over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years.