Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Thursday, 25 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 202-224

Employment Rights

Ceisteanna (202)

Johnny Mythen

Ceist:

202. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the rationale for deferring the implementation of pay increases contained in a new Employment Regulation Order for the Security Sector from 1 June until 1 September 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58095/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

On 28 April 2021, I announced my intention to issue an Order to give effect to a statutory recommendation of the Labour Court concerning minimum rates of remuneration and other terms and conditions in the Security Sector. The Order was to apply from 1 September 2021. This was to ensure that workers and employers would have adequate notice of the changes owing to the Covid-19 public health restrictions that were in place and which had impacted on many businesses in Ireland.

An ex-parte application to initiate legal proceedings challenging the underlying legislation in the High Court was lodged in late July. As part of the proceedings, the High Court has placed a Stay on me, as Minister, which stops me from making the Order. Until such time as these legal proceedings have concluded it is not possible to indicate a timeframe for the increases to take effect.

Work Permits

Question No. 204 answered with Question No. 203.

Ceisteanna (203, 204)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

203. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of employment permits that have been processed in 2020 and to date in 2021 for non-EEA carers; the number of those that are for roles in nursing homes and hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58108/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Colm Burke

Ceist:

204. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of employment permit applications currently in the system being processed for non-EEA carers; the number of those that are for roles in nursing homes and hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58109/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 204 together.

Ireland operates a managed employment permits system maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. The regime is designed to accommodate the arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill skills and labour gaps for the benefit of our economy, in the short to medium term.

The employment permit system is managed through the operation of the critical skills and the ineligible occupations lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for consideration for an employment permit. In order to maintain the relevance of these lists of occupations to the needs of the economy, they undergo twice-yearly evidence-based reviews. These reviews are guided by research undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the Skills and the Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), SOLAS and include a public consultation process and extensive consultation with other Government Departments through the Interdepartmental Group on Economic Migration Policy. Account is taken of education outputs, sectoral upskilling and training initiatives and known contextual factors such as Brexit and, in the current context, COVID-19 and their impact on the labour market.

Employment permits are not generally granted to allow non-EEA nationals to work as carers, as this occupation is included on the Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits. An exception may be made for an application for employment as a carer in a private home where the person who requires the care has a severe medical condition and the prospective carer is a trained medical professional, or where it can be demonstrated that the applicant has a long history of caring for the person requiring the care.

On 14 June 2021, following the then most recent review of the employment permit occupation lists, I announced changes to the employment permit system, with immediate effect, to address skills and labour shortages in the healthcare and nursing home sector. The occupation of Nursing Auxiliary or Assistant (Health Care Assistant) in hospital/nursing home settings became eligible for an employment permit from this date.

The grade of Nursing Auxiliary or Assistant (Health Care Assistant) in Hospital/Nursing Home Settings is removed from the ineligible occupation list within the following framework:

- Attainment of a relevant QQI Level 5 qualification after 2 years employment in the State

- A minimum remuneration threshold of salary of at least €27,000

The framework will be reviewed after twelve months to ensure that the changes announced in June 2021 meet the needs of the sector.

The table below shows the number of employment permits that have been processed in 2020 and to date in 2021 in respect of Health Care Assistants.

-

2020

2021 (21/11/2021)

Permits Issued

1

11

Decisions Made

11

34

There are currently 326 employment permit applications awaiting processing in respect of Health Care Assistant roles. This figure represents the total number of applications for both nursing homes and hospitals.

Question No. 204 answered with Question No. 203.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (205)

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

205. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has met with an organisation (details supplied) since the postponement of the Industrial Relations (Provisions in Respect of Pension Entitlements of Retired Workers) Bill 2021; if not, if a commitment will be given to hold such a meeting as part of the consultation process; if a timeline will be provided for this meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58193/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Government have agreed to a timed amendment to the Industrial Relations (Provisions in Respect of Pension Entitlements of Retired Workers) Bill 2021.

This will allow time, as I outlined on the floor of the Dáil, to examine the issues carefully and to ensure that all stakeholders are consulted.

This process will commence as soon as possible and will involve engagement with organisations representing retired workers.

Company Registration

Ceisteanna (206)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

206. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will consider an extension for the Companies Registration Office tax returns deadline (details supplied). [58233/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Registrar of Companies is a statutory role and the Registrar has administrative independence in the exercise of this function.

The Registrar has shown considerable flexibility throughout the Covid-19 period in relation to the arrangements for filing annual returns, in recognition of the additional challenges facing companies as well as their professional advisers in meeting filing obligations. This includes extending the filing deadlines in respect of annual returns due during 2020 and also earlier this year in February and May, and suspending prosecutions and involuntary strike-offs for failure to file annual returns.

The Registrar is mindful of the particular problems raised by some small accountancy firms in meeting the current filing deadline for Annual Returns on behalf of their clients. Following consultation with stakeholders, the Registrar has taken the decision to extend the deadline for filing for a period of two weeks until 9th December in order to assist those firms who have found themselves in serious difficulties.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (207)

Michael Collins

Ceist:

207. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the roll-out of NBI broadband to Bantry, County Cork; if he will provide extra resources to advance the roll-out of NBI broadband in Bantry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58041/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the over 554,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 699 schools.

I am advised by National Broadband Ireland that, as of 12 November 2021, over 277,000 premises in the Intervention Area across all counties have been surveyed.  In County Cork surveys are complete in the Deployment Areas of Carrigaline, Midleton, Youghal, Templemartin and Tallow. Main build work are currently underway in Midleton and Youghal and are complete in Carrigaline. There are over 3,700 premises included in the Bantry Intervention Area and these premises will be delivered with high speed broadband under the NBP ensuring that no premises is left behind. 

I am advised that there are over 125,000 premises currently under construction and Retail Service Providers are actively selling on the NBI network with over 30,000 premises available to order and pre-order across 13 counties. This includes over 4,500 premises in County Cork. Further details are available on specific areas within County Cork through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the Intervention Area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises as works commence. NBI has a dedicated email address, reps@nbi.ie, which can be used by Oireachtas members for specific queries.

In addition to the challenges to the delivery of the NBP due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NBI has faced a range of other challenges due to the sheer scale and complexity of rolling out fibre to the home in a rural environment. These include significant tree trimming to ensure cable can be placed on overhead poles, remediation of ducting that has been in place for many decades, the co-ordination of hundreds of contracting crews and addressing the many issues arising week on week which could not have been foreseen until the build crews commenced work on the ground. My Department has worked closely with NBI to put in place a remedial plan under the Contract. This plan addresses delays experienced by NBI, primarily arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and re-baselines milestones for 2021. Work is underway to re-baseline milestones for 2022 and beyond. This has resulted in some changes to timeframes for connection for end users.

The network rollout for the National Broadband Plan is divided into 227 Deployment Areas (DAs) across the country.  These are typically an area of approximately 25km in radius and in total they cover 96% of Ireland’s landmass. The architecture of the network design is specifically based on the design of the NBI network coming from the eir exchanges or the metropolitan area networks (MANs). It is based on an engineering design that allows NBI to get to every premises as quickly as possible working within the confines of how fibre networks are built.

Each DA creates a ‘fibre ring’ which is essential to ensure reliability, robustness and resilience. Critical to the success of the network, NBI’s fibre rings are built with back-ups, ensuring that in the event of one fibre cable being disrupted, the whole network continues to perform.  Each fibre ring that NBI deploys is designed in a way that is non-discriminatory, meaning that as the rollout progresses, it may pass relatively urban areas at the same time as passing some of the most remote premises within the intervention area. The design will utilise existing infrastructure to a very significant degree.

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 12 November, 389 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly accessible sites and the Department of Education for school BCPs. BCP’s are installed in County Cork at Ballydaly Community Hall, Aubane Community Centre, Mealagh Valley Community Centre, Courtbrack Community Centre, Laharn Heritage Centre, Ballindangan Community Centre, Clogagh Community Hall, Aghabullogue Community Centre, Castletownkenneigh Community Centre, The Old Schoolhouse, Bere Island Heritage Centre, Coláiste Phobal Cléire, Lissavard Community Centre, Whitechurch Community Centre, Glash Community Centre, T.O. Park Labbamollaga and Sherkin Island Community Hall.

Templebrady National School, Ballycroneen National School, Clogagh National School, Educate Together Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy Lower Harbour National School, Scoil  Naomh Fionan Na Reanna, Ballygarvan National School and Shanbally National School have been installed by NBI for educational access. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise schools with no high speed broadband, within the Intervention Area, for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan was announced in December which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026.

Broadband Infrastructure

Ceisteanna (208)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

208. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the reason poles were erected opposite Loughquittane Lake in Killarney by National Broadband Ireland (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58067/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

We are exploring the background to this case for our own purposes.  The issue involves 2 poles in private land (wayleave permission granted) deemed by NBI not to require S.254 licences, i.e. it is exempt development.  Exploring the validity of that view with external experts. 

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (209)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

209. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he has received correspondence regarding the issue of waste waivers in the past three months. [58075/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

My officials have advised that the Department has received one enquiry from a member of the public and two enquiries from members of this House in the last 3 months requesting an update on measures to support persons with long-term incontinence with respect to the disposal of medical incontinence wear; the matter has also been the subject of five Parliamentary Questions in this period.

Climate Action Plan

Ceisteanna (210)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

210. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the estimated amount Ireland has paid in fines in 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021 for missing climate action targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58110/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The 2009 Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) set annual binding emissions reduction targets for EU Member States for the period 2013-2020. These targets cover emissions from sectors outside of the EU Emissions Trading System, such as agriculture, transport, buildings and waste. For the year 2020, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their level in 2005. The ESD allows Member States to meet their targets by means of unused emissions allowances from earlier years, or through purchasing allowances from other Member States or on international markets.

The latest estimates of greenhouse gas emissions, published in October 2021 by the Environmental Protection Agency, indicate that 2020 emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the ESD are expected to be approximately 7% below 2005 levels. The estimates indicate that Ireland will cumulatively exceed the annual ESD targets by approximately 12Mt. Ireland will, therefore, need to purchase additional credits to meet the projected shortfall.

In order to comply with targets under the ESD, since 2019 Ireland has spent €2.1m purchasing carbon credits. Ireland currently holds a total of 8.2 million international credits which are eligible for ESD compliance. The latest estimates indicate Ireland will need to purchase an additional 3.8 million credits to comply with the targets. The most recent estimates of the additional costs of purchasing credits for compliance with these targets were in the region of €6 million to €13 million, depending on the price and final quantity of allowances required.

As the designated purchasing agent on behalf of the State, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) administers and manages purchases of carbon credits. Details of all transactions entered into by the NTMA are published annually in a Carbon Fund Report at www.ntma.ie  in accordance with section 6 of the Carbon Fund Act 2007.

Climate Action Plan

Ceisteanna (211)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

211. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the amount of funding his Department is projecting needs to be budgeted for to meet obligations for missing Ireland’s climate action targets for each year to 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58111/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Climate Action Plan 2021, published on 4 November, follows the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Acts 2015 to 2021 (the Acts), and commits Ireland to a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050, and to reducing emissions by 51% by 2030, compared to 2018 levels.

To underpin the achievement of our climate ambition in the near and long-term, the Acts establish a legally binding framework with clear targets and commitments, and ensure the necessary structures and processes, including carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings, are embedded on a statutory basis. Putting these requirements in legislation places a clear obligation on this and future governments for sustained climate action.

Monitoring of compliance with national and sectoral progress towards each carbon budget and sectoral emissions ceiling will be informed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual inventory and projection reports, as well as the Climate Change Advisory Council’s (CCAC) annual review report. To ensure greater scrutiny and accountability is provided, relevant Ministers will be required to give account to an Oireachtas Committee on performance, both in implementing Climate Action Plan actions and in adhering to their sector’s emissions ceilings under the carbon budget. Where Ministers are not in compliance with the targets, they will need to outline what corrective measures are envisaged.

At an EU level, the EU Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) sets binding emission reduction targets for Member States for the period 2021-2030. The current target for Ireland is a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Climate Action Plan 2019 set out the policies and measures that Ireland must take to meet this target and avoid any costs arising from not meeting the target. The recently published Climate Action Plan 2021 sets out the practical measures that we need to take to meet a higher-level ambition of reducing our emissions by 51% versus 2018 levels.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ceisteanna (212)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

212. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if his Department has engaged with other countries in respect of Sustainable Development Goal 3 of the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58229/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a significant and ambitious policy agenda that concerns all Government Departments. The first National Implementation Plan 2018-2020, published in 2018, was developed to oversee and facilitate coherent implementation of the SDGs across Government, and to promote awareness of the SDGs.

A renewed focus is currently being given to progress Ireland’s commitment to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Substantial progress has been achieved in recent months in respect of reviewing Ireland’s implementation of Agenda 2030 and identifying key priorities and actions for inclusion in the next National Implementation Plan.  It is intended that the draft Plan will be made available shortly and form the basis of discussion at the next SDG National Stakeholder Forum. This will allow for a final round of input from stakeholders prior to finalisation and publication.

Ireland has adopted a ‘whole-of-Government’ approach to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with each Minister having responsibility for implementing individual SDG targets related to their functions. As Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications I have lead responsibility for targets related to a number of SDGs, including Goal 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production, as well as Goal 7 on Energy and Goal 13 on Climate Action. In addition, I have overall responsibility for promoting the SDGs, and for overseeing their coherent implementation across Government.

Ireland engages actively through the European Union (EU) to support the global commitment to achieving Agenda 2030, in particular, through the United Nations (UN). A number of UN Framework Conventions, including the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), provide mechanisms for international cooperation to tackle climate and ecological challenges, in particular, through the adoption of ambitious treaties and agreements such as the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Ireland recognises that multilateral responses are crucial to tackling environmental and climate-related challenges, and my Department engages with relevant EU and UN structures to support these objectives, both directly and through cross-departmental participation as appropriate.

Aviation Industry

Question No. 214 answered with Question No. 213.

Ceisteanna (213, 214)

Matt Shanahan

Ceist:

213. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Transport the details of the administrative process and computational method of allocating funding to specific airports with respect to the €126 million aviation package announced on 12 October 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58136/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Matt Shanahan

Ceist:

214. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Transport if the €126 million aviation package is for the furtherance of the ongoing capital works at Cork and Dublin airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58137/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 214 together.

As the Deputy is aware, on 12 October Government announced a €126m funding package for Aviation. Under this package funding of €90m will be allocated in 2021, subject to State aid approval, under the Covid-19 Supplementary Support Scheme and €36m will be allocated in 2022 under the Regional Airports Programme 2021-2025. Details of the administration of this funding is detailed as follows:

(1) Covid-19 Supplementary Support Scheme

€90m will be allocated to Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports under a Damages Measure to help address liquidity issues at airports as a result of Covid-19. This funding will continue to provide Airports with flexibility to continue their roll out of route incentives/charge rebates, in consultation with airlines, supporting recovery and growth of connectivity.

In order to ensure parity of treatment, funding will be allocated, subject to State aid approval, to airports proportionate to the damage caused. In this regard, funding will be allocated proportionately in line with 2019 passenger numbers at the airports.

This €90m in funding builds on the €20m in funding provided to Dublin, Cork and Shannon earlier this year and the €6m in funding under State Aid approved Schemes which supported our smaller airports Ireland West, Kerry and Donegal Airports that provide connectivity.

(2) Regional Airports Programme 2021-2025

Funding of €36m will be provided in 2022 to support eligible regional airports under the Regional Airports Programme. Shannon, Cork, Ireland West, Donegal and Kerry airports are eligible for current and capital funding under the Programme in 2022.

The Programme provides targeted funding through a number of capital and operational grant schemes for safety and security related projects and activities and projects which support sustainability objectives, enabling these airports to identify and implement climate related efficiencies and build resilience against the likely impacts of climate change. The Programme also funds Exchequer funded Public Service Obligation air services between Donegal and Dublin.

Full details of the administration of the various schemes under this Programme are available via the following link Regional Airports Programme 2021-2025.

With regard to capital works at Cork and Dublin Airports, Cork Airport will be eligible to put forward projects for consideration for capital support under the Regional Airports Programme in 2022. Dublin Airport, by virtue of their size and passenger numbers, is not eligible for supports under this Programme.

Question No. 214 answered with Question No. 213.

Aviation Industry

Ceisteanna (215)

Matt Shanahan

Ceist:

215. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Transport the timeline with respect to various approvals within Departments in respect of the current €40 million capital project being undertaken at Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58138/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, Cork Airport is undertaking a Runway Reconstruction and Remediation Project. This is the single-biggest construction project, and the biggest investment by daa, at Cork Airport since the opening of the new terminal building in 2006.

In line with the Covid-19 Regional State Airports Programme 2021, Cork Airport was invited to apply for capital funding under the Programme. Applications received from Cork Airport included a proposal for the runway overlay project.

Given the costs involved, this project fell within the scope of the Public Spending Code (PSC). In this context, Cork Airport submitted all required documentation under the PSC, up to and including a Final Business Case (FBC) for the project. The Strategic Research and Analysis Division (SRAD) of my Department conducted a technical assessment of the appraisal to determine its compliance with the PSC. On the basis of the submitted material, SRAD concluded, on 23 June 2021, that the economic appraisal had been conducted in accordance with the relevant guidelines as set out in the PSC. The project was then recommended to me for funding by an Assessment Panel established by my Department, and comprising of representatives from my Department, the Irish Aviation Authority and NewERA.

On foot of the above, €10m in Exchequer funding for this project was announced on 12th July 2021 under the Covid-19 Regional State Airports Programme 2021.

Bus Services

Question No. 217 answered with Question No. 216.

Ceisteanna (216, 217)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

216. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport if an additional bus stop in Bridgetown will be considered on the current Ballyshannon to Donegal town Local Link route in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58084/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

217. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport if a Local Link route between Frosses and Glenties in County Donegal will be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58085/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 217 together.

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding for public transport.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme, which operates under the TFI Local Link brand.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for a direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Question No. 217 answered with Question No. 216.

Bus Services

Ceisteanna (218)

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

218. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will liaise with the National Transport Authority in relation to the cessation of the of the 66A bus service under BusConnects (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58086/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the BusConnects programme.

Noting their responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Driver Licences

Ceisteanna (219)

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

219. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Transport the reason that cash payments are not accepted at the NDLS centre in Ennis, County Clare, given that cash payments are accepted at the motor tax office and both are under the remit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58103/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

This is a matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (220)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

220. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport his views on the lack of vehicle charging points, the lack of fast vehicle charging points and the issues regarding vehicle charging points in areas across counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58120/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Deputy will be aware that the Government is fully committed to supporting a significant expansion and modernisation of the electric vehicle charging network over the coming years. A national charging infrastructure strategy is due for publication early next year which will set out a pathway to stay ahead of demand over the critical period out to 2030.

I am also aware that a report was published by the CCMA on the provision of guidance to local authorities on the provision of charging infrastructure. The document is available for viewing online at: www.lgma.ie/en/publications/general-publications/local-authority-electrification-of-fleet-and-ev-charging-guidance.pdf

Preparations are underway to establish an Office of Low Emission Vehicles. This Office will play an important role in our transition to zero emission vehicles. It will co-ordinate measures to support the uptake of EVs and the rollout of charge point infrastructure.

In terms of existing supports for public charging, the Public Charge Point Scheme continues to be available during 2021 to provide local authorities with a grant of up to €5,000 to support the development of on-street public chargers. The primary focus of the scheme is to provide support for the installation of infrastructure which will facilitate owners of electric vehicles, who do not have access to a private parking space, but instead rely on parking their vehicles in public places near their homes to charge their EVs. My Department has committed to reviewing the Scheme later this year to ensure that it is as effective as possible in driving the decarbonisation effort.

Having an effective and reliable recharging network is essential to enabling drivers to choose electric. Charging at home is the most convenient and cheapest way to recharge. Targeting the installation of smart home chargers is a priority as we look to moving towards more energy efficient and sustainable ways to charge. A grant is available from the SEAI for those individuals seeking to install a home charger. Work is currently being progressed to expand the EV home charger grant to include shared parking in apartment blocks and similar developments. My Department is working closely with the SEAI and expects a scheme for apartments to open in the near future.

There is also a need for a seamless public charging network that will provide for situations or instances where home charging is not possible such as on-street and residential charging, destination charging, and workplace charging.

€10 million was committed from the Climate Action Fund to support ESB investment in the charging network and this has leveraged a further €10 million investment from ESB, with the infrastructure to be in place by the end of 2022. This intervention alone will result in:

- 90 additional high power chargers, each capable of charging two vehicles

- 52 additional fast chargers, which may replace existing standard chargers

- 264 replacement standard chargers with more modern technology and with each consisting of two charge points

Further details on the progression of this project can be found at esb.ie/ecars/our-network/network-upgrades.

In addition to the main network, additional charge points are provided at locations such as places of employment and private car parks. Currently, there are circa 2,000 charge points in Ireland, with this number continuing to grow.

In relation to the three counties that the Deputy has raised, my Department is informed by ESB eCars that its charging network currently includes the following:

- Co Meath has 24 standard charge points, six fast chargers and two high-powered charge points

- Co Monaghan has 8 standard charge points and two fast chargers

- Co Cavan has 10 standard charge points and one fast charger

ESB ecars is to begin works next month to install a high-power charging (HPC) hub in Monaghan.

It has also informed my Department that works to install high-powered charging locations in Trim and Navan, Co. Meath will be completed by mid-2022. ESB ecars is in negotiations with private landowners with regard to the provision of a new HPC hub in Cavan.

The FASTER project is a joint initiative aimed at supporting the installation, by May 2023, of 73 rapid (50kw capacity) EV charging stations across both jurisdictions within Ireland, as well as in Scotland. It has been awarded over €6.4 million from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme.

The project aims to fund up to 40 fast chargers in various locations on both sides of the Border and it is understood that procurement for this is due to get under way early in 2022. In the Republic, rapid and high-power chargers are to be installed in border and adjacent counties.

My Department is also developing a new scheme which will support the installation of destination charge points in locations such as hotels, visitor centres and parks. This new initiative will help provide another critical link in the overall network for public charging.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (221)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

221. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Finance if correspondence (details supplied) will be reviewed; if his Department has contacted the Department of Social Protection on this matter for discussion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58090/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The objective of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) is to support employment and maintain the link between the employer and employee insofar as is possible. The EWSS has been a key component of the Government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. It is an economy-wide scheme that operates across all sectors.

While the criteria for eligibility for business in general is based on a reduction in turnover, as a result of the pandemic and having regard to the importance of maintaining the provision of childcare facilities so as to enable parents to continue in, or to take up, positions of employment, the legislation provided that childcare businesses in possession of tax clearance and registered in accordance with Section 58C of the Childcare Act 1991 are eligible for the EWSS.

The cost to date (18th November) of the EWSS is over €6.3 billion comprising of direct subsidy payments of €5.505 billion and PRSI forgone of €865 million to 51,700 employers in respect of over 687,600 employees.

Government policy has been that there will be no cliff edge to the support, at the same time it is necessary to gradually unwind and phase out this temporary emergency support measure. That is why, on Budget Day, I announced the extension of EWSS in a graduated form until 30 April 2022. This ensures there will be no sudden end to the EWSS and also provides clarity and certainty to business.

The following are the broad parameters of this extension:

- The current arrangements, including the enhanced rates of subsidy, will remain in place until November 30 2021;

- For December 1 2021 to February 28 2022, the original two-rate subsidy of €151.50 and €203 will apply;

- For March and April 2022, a single flat rate of €100 will apply and the reduced rate of Employers’ PRSI will be reinstated for these two months;

- Businesses availing of the EWSS on 31 December 2021 will continue to be supported until 30 April 2022. The scheme will close to new employers from 1 January 2022.

To address the specific point in relation to sole-traders, subject to meeting the requisite conditions, a sole-trader’s business may be a qualifying employer for the purpose of the scheme, the same as is the case for any other employer. As was the case under the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), sole-traders are not able to claim the EWSS in respect of their own employment as they are not employees – and further, may not necessarily be paid via the payroll system unlike proprietary directors who are obliged to have PAYE operated on any payments made to them personally.

Since the introduction of EWSS there has been regular and, where necessary, detailed engagement between my Department and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (D/CEDIY), who have policy responsibility for the childcare sector. Analysis undertaken by D/CEDIY informed the approach taken with regard to the childcare sector. Childcare businesses will continue to benefit from the EWSS exemption until end April 2022.

I understand that analysis by D/CEDIY estimates that the value of EWSS to the sector at the enhanced rates is €34 million per month, €22 million per month at original rates and €11 million at the flat rate. That Department estimates that the cost to the sector of operating in line with the public health guidance is €12 million per month.

As announced by my colleague, Minister O’Gorman, it is intended to put in place a transition fund between May and August 2022, which early learning and childcare providers can access. From September 2022, a major new funding stream will be introduced, to support providers in meeting their operating costs in return for a commitment that fees to parents will not increase. Therefore, I am satisfied that a coherent approach has been taken as regards the exit strategy for EWSS and the introduction of the new funding stream for the childcare sector.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has adopted a proactive and dynamic approach to supporting businesses and individuals insofar as possible during this challenging time.

As regards the EWSS and the current circumstances referenced in this question, the Government continues to monitor developments closely and will consider if any response is required at an appropriate time.

Primary Medical Certificates

Ceisteanna (222)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

222. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide clarity as to the establishment of a review group on foot of legal advice received in relation to primary medical certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58045/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Disabled Drivers & Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from Vehicle Registration Tax and VAT on the purchase and use of an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant.

The Scheme is open to severely and permanently disabled persons as a driver or as a passenger and also to certain charitable organisations. In order to qualify for relief, the applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate issued by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer (SAMO) or a Board Medical Certificate issued by the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal. Certain other qualifying criteria apply in relation to the vehicle, in particular that it must be specially constructed or adapted for use by the applicant.

To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled, and satisfy at least one of the following medical criteria, in order to obtain a Primary Medical Certificate:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The current medical criteria were included in the Finance Act 2020, by way of amendment to Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989. This amendment arises from legal advice in light of the June 2020 Supreme Court judgement that the medical criteria in secondary legislation was not deemed to be invalid, nevertheless it was found to be inconsistent with the mandate provided in Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989 (primary legislation).

While I am very aware of the importance of this scheme to those who benefit from it, I am also aware of the disquiet expressed by members of this house and others in respect of the difficulties around access to the scheme.

Accordingly, I gave a commitment to the House that a comprehensive review of the scheme, to include a broader review of mobility supports for persons with disabilities, would be undertaken.

In this context I have been working with my Government colleague, Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. We are both agreed that the most appropriate forum for the review of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme (DDS) is to bring it under the auspices of National Disability Inclusion Strategy working group. As per Action 104 of that Strategy, the working group is tasked with examining transport supports encompassing all Government funded transport and mobility schemes for people with disabilities. Its work commenced in February 2020 but was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister O’Gorman has confirmed that he has asked his officials to reconvene the working group established to carry out that review at the earliest opportunity. Officials from both my Department and Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth have met recently to discuss proposals for progressing the DDS review within the wider Action 104 NDIS review. My officials will continue to work closely with officials from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, to progress the DDS review, and on foot of that will bring forward proposals for consideration.

Housing Schemes

Ceisteanna (223)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

223. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons that availed of the help-to-buy scheme in Cork city and county in each of the years 2018 to 2020 and to date in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58105/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Help to Buy (HTB) incentive is a scheme to assist first-time purchasers with a deposit they need to buy or build a new house or apartment. The incentive gives a refund on Income Tax and Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) paid in the State over the previous four years, subject to limits outlined in the legislation. Section 477C Taxes Consolidation Act (TCA) 1997 outlines the definitions and conditions that apply to the HTB scheme.

I am advised by Revenue that there have been approximately 3,500 applications for the Help to Buy (HTB) scheme in Cork city and county that have reached claim stage since the inception of the scheme in 2017 (500 in 2017, 550 in 2018, 800 in 2019 and 800 in 2020). According to Revenue, the latest data that is available indicates that there have been 850 claims in the first nine months of 2021.

Revenue publishes detailed annual and monthly statistics on the update of the HTB on its website, available at:

www.revenue. ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/htb/htb-yearly.aspx.

and

www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/htb/htb-monthly.aspx.

As the Deputy will be aware, Finance Bill 2021 will extend the Help to Buy scheme for one further year to the end of 2022 and that the scheme will be formally reviewed in the course of 2022.

Climate Action Plan

Ceisteanna (224)

Brian Leddin

Ceist:

224. Deputy Brian Leddin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the work being carried out by his Department to investigate the way future compliance costs for failing to meet European Union climate targets can be applied to the sectors that breach their sectoral emission ceilings under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58123/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Ireland faces legally binding targets at EU level on greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy.

On greenhouse gas emissions, the Effort Sharing Regulation currently requires Ireland to reduce national non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions by 30% (compared to 2005 levels), with annual limits for every year over the period 2021-2030.

On renewable energy, 2030 renewable energy targets are set by individual Member States in their respective National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP). Our current NECP requires Ireland to reach a renewable energy level of 34.1% by 2030 with periodic milestones on the path to the achievement of this target.

Both of these targets will likely be increased as part of the EU’s Fit for 55 package.

A failure to make sufficient progress towards these targets and the likely upward revisions, could give rise to a cost of compliance. As the Deputy notes, I have committed to developing a methodology to ensure that any compliance costs that arise from a failure to reach these targets will be borne by the sector responsible for this failure. With the completion and publication of the Government’s Climate Action Plan, development of this methodology has commenced and will progress in 2022.

Regarding the sectoral emission ceilings, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 sets out the process for setting carbon budgets in detail. In particular, the Act assigns responsibility for creating sectoral emissions ceilings to the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, in consultation with other Ministers, with the resulting ceilings to be approved by Government. This process takes place after the adoption of the National Carbon Budgets.

Given that both the development of the proposed methodology and the sectoral carbon budgets are still in development, it is perhaps premature to consider how the methodology may apply beyond its intended purpose. However, as part of the methodology's development my officials will consider its potential wider application and will develop the methodology in close collaboration with other Government Departments, particularly the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.

Barr
Roinn