To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a cost-benefit analysis of the impact that the proposed IORP II regulation would have on operation of pension schemes with less than 100 members in particular its application to one person pension schemes has been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the consultation she plans to undertake with relevant stakeholders in respect of the regulation required to give effect to the transposition of IORP II into law; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The Government's Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018 -2023 launched in February 2018 detailed specific measures that will modernise our pension system. It includes plans for reform and simplification of occupational and private pensions. Transposition of the Directive is a key part of the Government’s Roadmap.
Transposition of the IORP II Directive will support positive reform of the Irish funded occupational pension sector. Transposition will raise governance standards, improve trustee qualification and suitability, and increase supervision through enhanced powers for the Pensions Authority.
In 2014, the Department undertook an open public consultation on the IORP II Directive. Further to that, the Pensions Authority undertook a consultation process on the reform and simplification of supplementary funded private pensions in 2016. In addition, officials of my Department have engaged on the provisions of the Directive with numerous representatives and stakeholders over a number of years.
My Department, supported by the Pensions Authority, conducted detailed analysis on the implementation of the Directive.
While the Directive provides for the possibility of derogation from specific Articles for smaller schemes, I believe that members of smaller schemes should get the same protections and oversight as members of large schemes. Money saved for pension purposes should be properly protected to ensure that people have adequate income for their retirement years. It should be noted that Member States must apply certain provisions concerning investment rules and the system of governance to schemes which have more than 15 members.
The Pension Authority advises that there are 100,000 single member schemes and that 98% of these schemes are already compliant with the investment rules of the IORP II Directive. Those not compliant will not be obliged to change existing investments and borrowings.
Article 19 of the Directive sets out the investment rules for occupational pension schemes. The underlying principle for capital investment is for schemes to invest in accordance with the 'prudent person' rule and the other specific rules set out in the Article. It is recognised that there should be an appropriate level of investment freedom for schemes within prudent limits and this is reflected in the rules. Assets must be predominantly invested on regulated markets, i.e., at least 50%. This allows adequate scope for investment in instruments with a long-term economic profile and non-listed undertakings such as property and infrastructure.
The value of investments held in many schemes fell substantially during the financial crisis. This emphasised the need for stricter regulation and greater protections, especially for small schemes investing in riskier unregulated markets. Concerns in relation to this sector are particularly around the protection of the consumer and the money they have invested, the riskiness of investments, the charges that apply, and the standard of governance. Accordingly, the Government has decided that the provisions of the Directive should apply to all funded occupational pension schemes.
To ask the Minister for Finance the status of the betting tax review; when the review will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The increase in the betting duty rate from 1 per cent to 2 per cent, and the betting intermediary duty rate from 15% to 25%, came into effect on 1 January 2019. It is too early to draw any conclusions on the impact of these increases.
I have sympathy for small bookmakers who may have ongoing difficulties competing with large retail and online bookmakers. However, I could not apply the increase in betting duty to some bookmakers and not others. Ultimately many taxes on goods or services are passed through to the end consumers and bookmakers will need to make commercial decisions on such matters.
The Deputies will appreciate that decisions in relation to betting duty need to reflect broader public interest considerations. Receipts from betting duty represented less than 1 per cent of all excise receipts in 2017 and this is also likely to be the case in for 2018. In addition, unlike other excisable commodities, there is no VAT applied on betting transactions. I have outlined why I consider the betting sector needs to make a fair contribution to the Exchequer.
In any discussion on betting duty, we must acknowledge the raised public consciousness of the problem of gambling in society. While problem gambling can result in the problem gambler, and their family, bearing the severest of economic and of course personal costs, the social costs of problem gambling can extend to their employers and to public institutions in the health, welfare and justice systems, such costs ultimately borne by taxpayers. Recent research published by the UK Gambling Commission and others provide an indicative list of these social costs, including loss of employment, experience of bankruptcy and/or debt, loss of housing/homelessness, crime associated with gambling, relationship breakdown/problems and health-related problems.
I have outlined my view that the social costs of problem gambling needs to be better reflected within the betting duty regime.
During the course of the Finance Bill process I agreed to review an alternative proposal put forward by the betting sector following the announcement of increases in betting duty in Budget 2019. My officials are currently considering this proposal, including the compatibility of a core element with EU rules, and will set out analysis and options in relation to betting duty at the Tax Strategy Group (TSG) meeting in July. The TSG Papers will be published on the Department's website shortly afterwards.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the sections of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 which remain to be commenced; and the status of the implementation of the Act
The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced. New administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health), must be put in place before the substantive provisions of the Act can be commenced.
A number of provisions of the 2015 Act were commenced in October 2016 in order to progress the setting up of the Decision Support Service. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 515 of 2016), brought Part 1 (Preliminary and General) and Part 9 (Director of the Decision Support Service) of the Act, other than sections 3, 4 and 7 in Part 1 and sections 96 and 102 and Chapter 3 in Part 9, into operation on 17 October 2016. These provisions were brought into operation in order to enable the recruitment of the Director of the Decision Support Service.
The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health. The Minister for Health, under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) (No. 2) Order 2016 (S.I. No. 517 of 2016), brought some provisions of Part 8 of the Act into operation on 17 October 2016. The provisions commenced in Part 8 were the definition of “Minister” in section 82; the definitions of “code of practice” and “working group” in section 91(1); and section 91(2). The commenced provisions provide for the establishment by the Minister for Health of a multi-disciplinary group to make recommendations to the Director of the Decision Support Service in relation to codes of practice on advance healthcare directives.
The Minister for Health commenced the remainder of section 91 on 17 December 2018 (S.I. No. 527 of 2018) to enable the Director of the Decision Support Service to progress the preparation of the codes of practice as soon as the multi-disciplinary group submits its recommendations to the Director.
The remainder of the 2015 Act has not yet been commenced. A high-level Steering Group comprised of senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission and the Courts Service, together with the Director of the Decision Support Service, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the Decision Support Service and this work is ongoing. The key preparations are being put in place under the oversight of the Steering Group to allow for further commencement orders for the provisions of the 2015 Act to be made when the Decision Support Service is ready to roll out the new decision-making support options. Every effort is underway to ensure that the Decision Support Service has all necessary capacity to open for business as soon as possible. While the Decision Support Service has been working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in 2020, the situation is being kept under review as the preparatory work on implementation moves forward.
The 2019 Revised Estimates Volume provides for an allocation of €3.5 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service.
To ask the Minister for Finance the estimated number of NAMA staff that will transfer into Home Building Finance Ireland; the anticipated date of their transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Similar to NAMA and the SBCI, all Home Building Finance Ireland (HBFI) officials will be seconded employees of the NTMA. In order to ensure that HBFI operates in the most efficient manner possible it is envisaged that the NTMA shall first draw upon any relevant resources, services and experience that are already available within the NTMA, including NAMA, when appointing staff to HBFI. NAMA has amassed considerable expertise in this area through the implementation of its existing residential funding programme and this will be a key asset for HBFI.
HBFI has an approved final headcount of 23 staff and is currently in the process of recruiting for 6 positions including the position of HBFI Chief Executive Officer. To date, 16 positions have been filled in HBFI (which will include 9 former NAMA officials). Of these 16 positions, 10 staff have already commenced working for HBFI with a further 6 staff commencing work in the coming weeks.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications to the community CCTV scheme in Fingal, Dublin; the number of applicants that have been approved and came on stream; the number of applications that are under consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Deputy will be aware that CCTV systems installed for the purposes of crime prevention and as aids to policing in areas to which the general public routinely have access, such as town centres, fall into two distinct but complementary categories, namely Garda CCTV systems and community-based CCTV systems.
Community CCTV is governed by section 38(3)(c) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006 (SI No 289 of 2006). This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must:
This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of how they are funded.
The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems. In furtherance of this commitment, a grant-aid scheme to assist groups in the establishment of community-based CCTV systems in their local areas is being administered by my Department. Eligible groups, including community groups and local authorities, can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000.
There have to date been 28 applications to the scheme. 20 applications have been approved, involving grant aid totalling more than €500,000. A further 5 applications to the scheme are currently being assessed and considered. The remaining 3 applications have been returned to the applicants concerned to enable them to supply the information necessary to qualify for grant aid.
I can confirm that no applications have been received to date relating to Fingal, Dublin.
I am keen to ensure that all interested groups, in both rural and urban areas, have the opportunity to take advantage of the availability of the grant aid scheme. If the Deputy is aware of groups wishing to avail of the scheme, further details are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie and support and guidance is available to help interested groups through a dedicated email address email@example.com
To ask the Minister for Health the status of the human tissue Bill
The General Scheme of a Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill is being finalised at present and will be submitted to Government shortly.
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the status of exports to Egypt since the Egyptian market reopened to Irish beef; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My officials continue to work towards opening and enhancing access to as many markets as possible. This is a key part of our response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and is in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy.
In relation to Egypt, the market was re-opened in early 2017 and there is an agreed veterinary health certificate for beef. The certificate covers bone in beef, boneless beef and certain offals including liver, heart and kidneys. Five Irish beef establishments are approved to export to Egypt.
While some trade commenced in early 2017, Central Statistics Office (CSO) trade data show that only 84 tonnes, or €226,000, was exported in 2017. There were not any beef exports to Egypt in 2018, up to the end of November.
The role of DAFM is to open up markets for the industry and it is then up to the industry with the support of DAFM and Bord Bia, to avail of these opportunities. However, the actual levels of exports will depend on a range of factors, including as global supply and demand dynamics, currency fluctuations and individual customer requirements
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the efforts being made to increase trade between Ireland and Egypt including live cattle exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agri-food sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming decade. Food Wise 2025 outlines the huge potential for growth in agri-food exports to new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Gulf region. This is where our efforts will be focused for the foreseeable future, particularly given the need to diversify our markets and to reduce our reliance on traditional destinations such as the UK.
Ireland’s main exports to Egypt are dairy products and fish. Bord Bia's recent market prioritisation report - which was compiled at my request and identified export opportunities in new and more mature markets - identified Egypt as an important dairy market, so we will continue to engage with the dairy industry to enhance these exports.
My Department has also engaged with the Egyptian authorities on several occasions in relation to live trade, including receiving an official delegation from Egypt in June 2018. In January this year, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD, discussed the issue of animal health certificates with the Egyptian Deputy Minister for Agriculture. The Egyptian authorities indicated willingness to consider amending existing health certificates and putting a new certificate for breeding stock in place. My Department's Chief Veterinary Officer wrote to his counterpart on 18th January with three proposed health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle. This engagement with the Egyptian authorities will continue, with the aim of re-establishing live exports as soon as might be possible.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase education links between Ireland and Egypt; the efforts being made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government’s International Education Strategy, Irish Educated, Globally Connected was published in October 2016.
As part of this strategy, my Department has been working with Enterprise Ireland, the education sector and our Embassy Network to identify educational opportunities and develop links in targeted overseas education markets.
On the 4 December 2018, Enterprise Ireland engaged in a two-day trade mission to Egypt.
Enterprise Ireland (under the Education in Ireland brand) used the opportunity of this trade mission to explore higher education opportunities for Ireland in Egypt, by engaging in discussions on possible collaborations with Egyptian Universities, education agents and other stakeholders.
It is likely that this exploratory work will lead to a more structured piece of research being conducted on the opportunities available for Ireland, in the Egyptian Higher Education market, and a familiarisation trip to Ireland by Egyptian education agents later this year.
To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport his plans to commence direct flights between Ireland and Egypt; the efforts made to date by him or his officials in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport if he or his officials have had formal meetings with Egyptian officials or airlines regarding commencing direct flights between Ireland and Egypt; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government recently approved the text of a bilateral Air Sevice Agreement with Egypt. Dail approval has also been secured to allow Ireland sign and ratify the Agreement. It is understood that the Agreement will be formally signed by both States in the very near future.
Any decision made with regard to the operation of air services between Ireland and Egypt would be a commercial matter for the airlines concerned. My Department has no role in business decisions of airlines and no meetings have taken place with officials from Egypt on the matter.
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section