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Thursday, 11 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 230-240

Driver Licences

Question No. 231 answered with Question No. 230.

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 230.

Ceisteanna (230, 231, 232)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

230. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Transport if Certificate of Professional Competence in Road Transport Management, CPC, holders who had their licence issued in Northern Ireland were required complete a transport management CPC examination in advance of the end of 2020 with (details supplied) to obtain an equivalent issued here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55313/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

231. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons who availed of the opportunity prior to the 2020 deadline of swapping their transport management certificate of professional competence for an equivalent issued here; the number of persons that remain to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55314/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

232. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Transport the details of the professional competence requirements that now need to be completed to exchange a transport management certificate of professional competence in road haulage issued in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55315/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 to 232, inclusive, together.

Regulation (EC) No 1071/2009 establishes common rules concerning the conditions to be complied with to pursue the occupation of road transport operator and provides that requisite professional competence is a key requirement to hold a road transport operator licence. Pursuant to this key requirement, Article 4 of the Regulation specifies that a Transport Manager designated by a road transport operator must hold a Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (TM CPC) issued by a competent authority of the EU. 

As outlined by the European Commission (notification available at ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/brexit_files/info_site/road_transport_en.pdf), following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 a TM CPC issued by a competent authority in the UK, including Northern Ireland, is no longer valid in the EU.  This means that a Transport Manager holding a UK-issued TM CPC can no longer act as Transport Manager for an EU-based road transport operator. 

My Department received clarification in late November 2020 from the European Commission that holders of a UK TM CPC could request and be granted a corresponding certificate from the competent authority in the Member State where they live or where the road transport operator employing them is established, as long as their request was submitted before the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.  My Department wrote to all UK (including Northern Ireland) TM CPC holders working for Irish road transport operators to inform them of this position, urging them to apply for a corresponding Irish (EU) certificate. 

As a result, a total of 284 corresponding Irish TM CPCs in road haulage and 49 Irish TM CPCs in road passenger transport were issued.  It is not possible to quantify the number of UK/NI TM CPC holders who did not avail of the facility to obtain a corresponding Irish certificate, as the number of such individuals who are unidentified to the Department is not known. 

As the deadline has now passed for applying for a corresponding Irish TM CPC, any persons holding a UK-issued TM CPC who wish to act as Transport Manager for an Irish/EU operator must obtain a TM CPC issued by an EU Member State. Obtaining an Irish TM CPC requires passing the examination administered by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) on behalf of my Department.  

Candidates who already hold a UK-issued TM CPC will not be required to undertake the training course of 100 hours that is normally mandatory before taking the CILT TM CPC examination.  The next date for the examination is 24 November 2021 and candidates can register online with CILT for the examination (contact info@cilt.ie).

Question No. 231 answered with Question No. 230.
Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 230.

Driver Test

Ceisteanna (233)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

233. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport if the 36 driver testers that were acquired to help clear the driver test backlog will be kept in their posts for the foreseeable future; if they are on temporary contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55330/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

In order to deal with the backlog in driving tests created by Covid, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) received approval in 2020 to rehire 36 temporary testers. In addition, the RSA received sanction to hire 40 additional testers on a temporary basis to assist with the backlog. These new testers have completed their training and have been conducting tests since July 2021. Sanction has also been granted to recruit a further 40 testers. 

Procedures require approval for hiring of staff from my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and we have responded to the needs of the RSA by giving the approvals mentioned. However, the RSA is the employer of driver testers and contractual terms are a matter for the RSA. 

I am aware that the 36 temporary testers rehired in 2020 are on contracts which are due to expire in December, March, and May. I am happy to say that my Department has approved a further extension of contracts for those due to expire in December and March. The RSA will conduct a review next year to see how the service is performing and to reassess its needs in light of evolving demand.    

Road Projects

Ceisteanna (234)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

234. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Transport if there are roadworks planned for the section of roads at Shannon Heights, Kilrush, County Clare. [55336/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from Councils' own resources supplemented by State road grants.  The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is a matter for the local authority.

As the statutory road authority for their administrative area, it is a matter for each local authority  to determine its priorities and decide its annual work programme taking available grant funding and its own resources into account.  The local authority should be able to advise the Deputy if any works are planned for this area.

Parking Provision

Ceisteanna (235)

Michael Collins

Ceist:

235. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the cost of €35 for a person who applies for a disability parking permit; his plans to eliminate this charge; if there is some way a person can be exempt from this charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55348/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

While my Department is responsible for the legislation underpinning the disabled parking scheme, day to day running of the scheme is under the remit of the two designated issuing bodies: the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland and the Irish Wheelchair Association. The Department has no involvement in setting fees and this is solely a matter for the two issuing bodies. 

I understand that the purpose of the application fee is, firstly, to cover the administrative costs of processing applications and producing permits and, secondly, to allow for investment in improving the security features of the card. While some countries operate disabled parking schemes without charging such a fee, local authorities in Ireland generally offer free parking to disabled parking permit holders in areas that would otherwise be metred.

Road Network

Ceisteanna (236)

Emer Higgins

Ceist:

236. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he will review the closure of the Tandy's Lane exit to the N4 at Lucan, County Dublin which was closed a number of years ago in the context of growing traffic through Lucan village; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55383/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme.  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the operation and management of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. 

In this context, TII is best placed to advise you.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question to TII for a direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Tax Exemptions

Ceisteanna (237)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

237. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he has consulted with the Minister for Finance in respect of seeking to have included among VAT exempt services that the driver education sector be included (details supplied); and if not, his plans to engage the Minister for Finance on this issue. [55405/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The setting of VAT is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance, and I have no role in it.

The Revenue Commissioners' VAT Treatment of Education and Vocational Training, attached here, www.revenue.ie/en/tax-professionals/tdm/value-added-tax/part03-taxable-transactions-goods-ica-services/Services/services-education-vocational-training.pdf, sets out clearly the types of training and courses which can be VAT exempt.

Section 6.2 states that "driving lessons are generally subject to VAT at the reduced rate. However, exemption continues to apply to driving lessons where the lessons concern vehicles which are designed or constructed for the carriage of 1.5 tonnes of goods or more, or for the carriage of 9 persons or more (including the driver)."

This provision complies with Section 6.1, which sets out the criteria which must be met for the provision of training or education to be VAT exempt:

- "It must be vocational in nature; that is, it must be directed towards an occupation and its associated skills

- It must be provided to improve the vocational rather than the personal skills of the trainee

- The vocational skills that the trainee acquires can be transferable from one employment to another, or to self-employment

- The training will generally be provided by means of a structured programme, have concise aims, objectives and clear anticipated outcomes

- There should be a clear trainee/trainer relationship between the student and the teacher or instructor.

Where any of the above conditions are not met or the course is primarily directed towards personal development or undertaken for recreational purposes, the course will be subject to VAT at the appropriate rate."

Insurance Coverage

Ceisteanna (238)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

238. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the measures that are being undertaken to ensure access to affordable insurance for hunts and other leisure, sporting and charity businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55270/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

At the outset, it is important to note that neither I nor the Central Bank of Ireland have any influence over the pricing or provision of insurance products, as this is a purely commercial matter. This position is reinforced by the EU legislative framework for insurance (the Solvency II Directive).

Having said that, the Government is acutely aware of the concerns felt by many sectors, including the ones highlighted by the Deputy, regarding the cost and availability of insurance. It has therefore prioritised the implementation of the Action Plan for Insurance Reform . As the Deputy may be aware, the first Action Plan Implementation Report, which was published in July, shows that significant progress has been made, with 34 of the 66 actions contained therein now completed.

One of the key achievements in the first half of this year was the implementation of the Personal Injuries Guidelines some six months ahead of schedule. Early data from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) shows that since the commencement of the new Guidelines award levels have reduced by an average of 40%. This is an encouraging development; it is my hope that this trend will continue and result in lower costs for businesses. As the insurance reform agenda progresses, we will continue to hold the industry to account on its commitments to pass on savings from the Guidelines, and other elements of the reforms, to customers. Minister of State Fleming, in his ongoing engagement with the sector, has emphasised the need for insurance providers to reduce premiums and increase their risk appetite to provide cover in new areas. A further element of the Action Plan with particular relevance to these types of activities involves reviewing the Duty of Care. The Minister for Justice, who is leading on this action, has noted to Government the intention to bring forward legislative proposals to reform the law in this area. My officials understand from their Department of Justice colleagues that these proposals are at an advanced stage.

I would like to take this opportunity to assure the Deputy that securing a more sustainable and competitive market through deepening and widening the supply of insurance in Ireland remains a key policy priority for this Government. In this regard, it is my intention to work with my Government colleagues to ensure that the implementation of the Action Plan can continue to have a positive impact on the affordability and availability of insurance for all individuals, businesses and community groups across the country, including for hunts, other leisure, sporting and charity businesses.

Tax Exemptions

Ceisteanna (239)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

239. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered reviewing VAT exemptions (details supplied) for the driving education sector in the context of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010. [55404/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply. In general, the VAT Directive provides that all goods and services are liable to VAT at the standard rate unless they fall within Annex III of the Directive, in respect of which Member States may apply either one or two reduced rates of VAT.

The supply of driving lessons is not listed in Annex III and therefore would, in general across the EU, be subject to the standard rate. However, the Directive allows that a Member State may maintain a historic VAT treatment under certain conditions and, on that basis, Ireland has retained its application of the reduced rate of VAT, currently 13.5%, to the supply of general driving lessons.

There is no provision in the VAT Directive to exempt the supply of general driving lessons.

The Directive does provide that the supply of vocational training services is exempt from VAT. This exemption applies to training directly related to a trade or profession, and such training includes a course of driving instruction in vehicles designed to carry 1.5 tonnes of goods or more, or 9 persons or more (including the driver). 

For training to be exempt from VAT, each of the following conditions must be met:

- the training must be vocational in nature, that is, it must be directed towards an occupation and its associated skills.

- it must be provided to improve the vocational rather than the personal skills of the trainee.

- the vocational skills that the trainee acquires can be transferable from one employment to another, or to self-employment.

- the training will generally be provided by means of a structured programme, have concise aims, objectives and clear anticipated outcomes; and

- there should be a clear trainee/trainer relationship between the student and the teacher or instructor.

Where any of the above conditions is not met, or the course is primarily directed towards personal development, or undertaken for recreational purposes, the course will be subject to VAT at the appropriate rate.

The Irish VAT law provisions in relation to general driving lessons and in relation to vocational training (including in driving) are fully in keeping with the provisions of the EU VAT rules.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (240, 241)

Cian O'Callaghan

Ceist:

240. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent to date on the planned international roadshow events to attract institutional investors to the property sector in Ireland; the total allocated budget for these events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55406/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Cian O'Callaghan

Ceist:

241. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Finance the number of international roadshow events to attract institutional investors to the property sector in Ireland that are planned; the persons or bodies that are due to attend these events on behalf of the Government; the policy justification for these events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55408/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

Action 18.8 of the Housing for All Plan, which was published in September, states that the Department of Finance will lead communication and engagement with institutional investors, including tradeshow events, to communicate policies and encourage sustainable investment in residential accommodation.

Before the pandemic, in 2019 there were just over 21,000 homes built and in 2020 the number of housing completions was just over 20,600. Therefore, meeting the target of an average of 33,000 homes per year will clearly require a significant increase in delivery. This increase in delivery will also require an increase in investment to support the building of new homes - in particular in the form of development finance.

This development finance will be needed by all those involved in developing homes across all regions of our country, from small and medium sized builders and developers, to larger operators, and this finance must come from a range of sources.

The Housing for All plan has clearly set out that public monies alone will not account for all of the funding for housing development in the State. External sources of finance will be needed to bridge the gap between the overall funding requirement to build an average of 33,000 homes each year, and that provided via direct Exchequer funding, State borrowing, Home Building Finance Ireland and the domestic banking sector.

Housing for All committed to the establishment of three dedicated work streams to drive the delivery of key aspects of the plan. This includes an investment work stream, which is chaired by the Department of Finance and includes membership from the Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and the NTMA.

Through the Housing for All investment work stream, there will be ongoing stakeholder engagement with a wide range of public and private bodies with a role in financing housing development. This will include engagement with public bodies involved in home delivery such as Home Building Finance Ireland, the Land Development Agency, the Housing Finance Agency, the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, the European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank, amongst others. It will also include engagement with domestic banks and private entities including institutional investors who also play an important role in funding the supply of additional property in Ireland, as is the case in most other property markets. The forward investment provided by investors provides capital to construct additional properties and many of these homes would not be available without the investment provided.

This engagement with stakeholders across the broad spectrum of funding for residential development is an important means of understanding the funding landscape and supporting the availability of the right type of finance for the wide variety of home developers and development schemes nationwide.

Currently, consideration is being given to the nature and type of this engagement.

Any engagement with institutional investors is not undertaken with a view to encouraging the bulk buying of residential houses. Rather, it is one part of a broader targeted engagement with all public and private bodies with a role in financing housing development, to ensure an adequate supply of appropriate finance to support the development of additional homes across the State.

Ensuring that people have access to home ownership in this country is a priority for this Government. Building up supply, after a period during which construction was forced to close for a significant period of time, is key to delivering on the ambitious targets set in Housing for All and making sure that those who wish to develop homes have access to a range of appropriate funding sources, both public and private, is central to the delivery of additional homes across the country. Engagement with key stakeholders is an important and legitimate means of gathering information on the funding landscape for residential housing development.

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