Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 275-294
 Header Item Consultancy Contracts Issues
 Header Item Banking Sector Issues
 Header Item VAT Rates Reductions
 Header Item Tax Reliefs Availability
 Header Item Tax Residency Issues
 Header Item IBRC Investigations
 Header Item Bank Charges
 Header Item Banking Sector Issues
 Header Item EU-IMF Programme of Support Value
 Header Item Small and Medium Enterprises Supports
 Header Item Mortgage Protection Policies
 Header Item Suicide Prevention

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 275-294

  Question No. 275 answered with Question No. 98.

Consultancy Contracts Issues

 276. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the current list of public relations or related consultancy contracts and agreements that the Central Bank of Ireland is currently in or has procured in the last five years, including in recent weeks; if any of these public relations deals regarding media management has been directly or indirectly related to the recent Anglo Irish Bank tapes controversy; the value of these public relations arrangements; the starting date of negotiations and the proposed length of each deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32174/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am informed by the Central Bank that it does not currently engage nor has it procured any such services over the last five years. In 2011, a one off specific service was provided by an external PR adviser at a cost of €169.40. The Central Bank has also informed me that as part of the National Payments Plan, marketing agencies have been and will be engaged to assist in developing communications plans relating to specific, defined public policy initiatives. These agencies have been and will be selected through competitive tender processes, and the costs of these will be split between the Central Bank, my own Department and industry.

Banking Sector Issues

 277. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the way AIB and Permanent TSB can advertise for business and investment when it is accepted that they are insolvent institutions with no capacity to offer secure liquidity; the exact extent of the insolvency-liquidity crisis in the above named institutions; his views on the way this will impact on the interest of those taxpayers who might respond to advertised business offers from insolvent institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [32187/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy will be aware Allied Irish Bank and Permanent TSB each hold Irish banking licences issued by the Central Bank of Ireland and are subject to regulations which require inter-alia each institution to be solvent. Further details of the financial position of each institution are available in the respective annual reports which are available on their websites. AIB and Permanent TSB are licensed banks and accordingly are legally entitled to engage in regulated activities, which includes, inter alia, accepting deposits from the public.

I have been informed by the Central Bank of Ireland (“Central Bank”) that the Consumer Protection Code applies to the regulated activities of regulated entities operating in the State and sets out General Principles with which a regulated entity must comply. For example, a regulated entity must act honestly and professionally, with due skill, care and diligence in the best interest of consumers. Chapter 9 of the Consumer Protection Code places specific requirements on regulated firms in relation to the contents and presentation of advertisements.

The main areas covered by Chapter 9 of the Consumer Protection Code require regulated firms to ensure advertisements are fair and not misleading, clearly understood, complete and accurate.

The Central Bank deals with regulated entities where concerns around the fairness, clarity, accuracy and potential for an advertisement to be construed as misleading in their overall content and presentation, and actively follows up on any issues identified. For example, where key information in relation to a product or service in advertisements is not sufficiently prominent and is included in smaller print to other parts of the advertisement, the Central Bank will address this with the individual entity.

VAT Rates Reductions

 278. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if consideration will be given to the introduction of a special reduced VAT rate for housing repair, maintenance and improvement work carried out as suggested by Chambers Ireland. [32194/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I would point out that a reduced rate of VAT (13.5%) already applies to the supply of housing repair, maintenance and improvement work on residential properties. In order to apply a lower reduced VAT rate to these services, the only rate possible would be the 9% VAT rate. While EU VAT law provides that a VAT rate of 5% or more may be applied to the supply of construction services on residential dwellings, the EU VAT Directive also provides that Member States may only apply up to two reduced rates of VAT and Ireland already operates reduced VAT rates of 9% and 13.5%. In this context, in order to apply a rate of 5% to the supply of such construction services, all activity at the 9% rate would have to be applied at the 5% rate and such a move would be excessively costly to the Exchequer.

Furthermore, while it is possible under EU VAT law to apply the 9% VAT rate to the supply of construction services on residential dwellings, it is not possible to apply this rate to construction services on non-residential property. This is because the application of the 13.5% rate to these services in Ireland is part of a derogation under the EU VAT Directive, which provides that as Ireland applied a reduced rate to such construction services on 1 January 1991, we are entitled to retain this historic treatment, provided the rate is charged at 12% or more. This would mean that if housing repair, maintenance and improvements was applied at the 9% VAT rate, this would involve two separate rates applying to the same services depending on the type of dwelling concerned, which would be complicated to administer.

  Question No. 279 answered with Question No. 170.

Tax Reliefs Availability

 280. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will outline the tax relief available on tuition fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32291/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides, subject to certain conditions, for tax relief at the standard rate of income tax (20%) as regards a portion of qualifying fees paid by an individual in respect of a third level education course including a postgraduate course. Qualifying fees means tuition fees in respect of an approved course at an approved college and includes what is referred to as the “student contribution”. No other fees (e.g. administration fees, examination fees, capitation fees) qualify for tax relief. For the tax year 2011 and subsequent tax years, the maximum qualifying fee per course per academic year is €7,000.

  The tax relief is confined to tuition fees actually borne by the claimant. Tuition fees that are, or will be, met directly or indirectly by grants, scholarships, employer contribution or other means are to be deducted in arriving at the fees qualifying for tax relief.

  An individual can claim tax relief on fees paid by him or her in respect of an approved course pursued by other individuals (e.g. a son or daughter) and that the claim may cover more than one student. Only a portion of the qualifying fees in each claim is eligible for relief. Each claim is restricted by the amount shown in the following table.

Year Full time

(Where any one of the students in respect of whom relief is claimed is a full-time student).
Part time

(Where all the students in respect of whom relief is claimed are part-time students).
2011 €2,000 €1,000
2012 €2,250 €1,125
2013 €2,500 €1,250
2014 €2,750 €1,375
2015 €3,000 €1,500


  The restriction applies to each claim, the subject of which may be one or more students. Therefore, if a person is claiming for more than one student they will get full relief, subject to the maximum limit, for the second and subsequent students claimed.

  Example

  A parent with two children in college full time in the academic year 2013/14 and paying €8,000 in fees (including the ‘student contribution’) for each child gets the following relief.

  Maximum qualifying fee per student per year is €7,000 by two = €14,000

  Less the 2013 restriction €2,500 = €11,500

  Tax relief @20% = €2,300 

  Question No. 281 answered with Question No. 100.

Tax Residency Issues

 282. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if his attention has been drawn to the suggestions recently made at the COSAC meeting in Dublin to the effect that this country is deemed to be a tax haven whereby multinational corporations are facilitated in the avoidance or evasion of tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32293/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The globally recognised definition of what constitutes a "tax haven" is set down by the OECD. Four criteria have been identified: minimal or no tax rates; lack of transparency; lack of exchange of information and lack of substance or economic activity. None of these four criteria apply to Ireland, a fact that has been acknowledged in recent months by Algirdas Semeta, the European Commissioner responsible for tax policy. The Director of the OECD's Centre for Tax Policy and Administration has also acknowledged recently that Ireland competed fairly for Foreign Direct Investment. However, not everyone agrees with the OECD's criteria. Some commentators, whether they be political, media, academic or business, hold a different view and have developed their own criteria to identify countries they regard as tax havens. Some of these commentators' analysis erroneously includes Ireland and many other countries with high reputations, as problem jurisdictions. These commentators are entitled to their opinion but in my view, and in the view of many countries around the world, they have got it wrong.

I would like to remind the Deputy of a few salient facts:

- We have a very strong track record of attracting companies of real substance to invest and create thousands of jobs in Ireland. Many of the large Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) are here for many years and see Ireland as an excellent base to serve their customer in Europe and further afield.

- These corporations have set down significant roots in the Irish economy and the Irish Government will continue to take steps to enhance our attractiveness through investment in our people, investment in our infrastructure and our strong commitment to Europe.

- Over 1,000 MNC’s have successfully located in Ireland and, despite the challenges that the Irish economy has faced in recent years, that pipeline has remained strong. Over 100,000 are employed directly by Multi-national companies in Ireland and they are an integral part of our past, our present and our future. Indeed, it is estimated that over 250,000 people are employed indirectly across the country servicing this key sector of our economy.

- These are companies of real substance and they are certainly not “post-box” companies – the Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) that establish operations in Ireland have created many thousands of sustainable, well-paid, jobs.

- Our competitive taxation system is, of course, an element of the Irish package and we remain committed to our competitive 12.5% tax rate.

- Our taxation system is open and transparent and all companies in Ireland pay tax at 12.5% on their profits earned in Ireland. Of course, profits earned by these companies that are outside the scope of the Irish tax system are not subject to Irish tax. Incorrectly counting these profits as “Irish profits” is often the reason for the inaccurate analysis of the Irish taxation system and throws up very low effective tax rates. However, we can only tax profits that are liable to tax in Ireland.

- Added to all of this, we exchange tax information with 80 different jurisdictions around the world through our network of international agreements, either by way of a Double Taxation Agreement of a Tax Information Exchange Agreement.

Aggressive tax planning by companies is a major issue for legislators across the world and needs to be addressed. However, it is clear to us from our work at the forefront of efforts at European and OECD level that these issues cannot be addressed at national level alone - we need a co-ordinated international response. The OECD's Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project represents that international response and work is well underway in this regard. Ireland has given its full support to the project and is working closely with our international partners on this important work. I look forward to seeing the results.

  Question No. 283 answered with Question No. 100.

IBRC Investigations

 284. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the extent to which efforts are being made to bring to a conclusion any issues arising from recent disclosures in respect of the former Anglo Irish Bank, with particular reference to ensuring that those involved are not rewarded for the consequences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32295/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am obviously very concerned at the contents of these tapes. I am advised that the Central Bank is carefully studying the various transcripts emerging. This is something that is viewed very seriously by the Central Bank and they will be liaising with the Gardaí in this regard and is also examining whether or not any breaches of regulatory requirements may have occurred arising from the information contained in the transcripts.

As the Deputy is aware the Garda Síochána are the body responsible for criminal investigations in the State. I understand that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation have requested access to various documents/materials in the banks, including audio recordings, and that the banks have fully complied with these investigations to date. It would be completely inappropriate for the Department of Finance to act outside of its legal powers and interfere with any investigation that could compromise potential future criminal or civil investigations by the bodies responsible under statute. I am advised that the tapes have previously been provided by Anglo/IBRC to the Gardaí and a number of other authorities involved in investigations relating to Anglo Irish Bank and it is up to them to determine if they will proceed with action on foot of these tapes.

The Government is determined to ensure the public is informed about what happened in Irish Banks in the period leading up to and during the financial crisis. The Government has now published the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill which, if enacted, will provide the legal framework for a banking inquiry to be held within the current constitutional parameters. It is important that all relevant parties participate fully with any resulting inquiry.

Bank Charges

 285. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the extent to which he and his Department monitor the levels of bank charges being imposed by various banks; the basis for such charges, nationally and internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32296/13]

 286. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the extent to which bank charges have been applied for the first time or increased in each of the past five years to date internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32297/13]

 287. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the total amount collected by way of bank charges by the various lending institutions in each of the past five years to date including credit card companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32298/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 285 to 287, inclusive, together.

  I, as Minister for Finance have no statutory role in relation to bank charges imposed by regulated financial institutions. This is a commercial matter for the lending institutions concerned.

  The Central Bank has advised me that under Section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (as amended), credit Institutions and bureaux de change must notify the Central Bank if they wish to:

- Introduce any new customer ‘charge’ for providing a service or

- Increase any existing customer ‘charge’ for providing a service.

  Service means any service provided by a credit institution to a customer in respect of the following:

- Making and receiving payments;

- Providing foreign exchange facilities;

- Providing and granting credit;

- Maintaining and administrating transaction accounts used for the services specified including issuing statements.

  These charges are assessed by the Central Bank in accordance with the criteria laid down in the legislation as follows:

- The promotion of fair competition between holders of authorisations and credit institutions;

- The commercial justification submitted in respect of the proposal;

- The impact new charges or increases in existing charges will have on customers, and

- Passing on costs to customers.

  The Deputy may wish to note that the Government has committed in the latest Troika programme to undertake an assessment of banks’ fee income relative to peers in selected other jurisdictions with a view to completing an external review of our regulation of bank fees by end–December.

Banking Sector Issues

 288. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the extent to which he has achieved agreement at EU level regarding the likelihood of the European Central Bank becoming involved in the issue of banking debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32299/13]

 289. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the steps taken at EU level in relation to existing and future banking debt resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32300/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 and 289 together.

As you are aware the Euro-area Heads of State and Government agreed on 29th June 2012 to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns, and that when a Single Supervisory Mechanism is in place involving the ECB, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) could recapitalise banks directly. The Euro-area Heads of State and Government confirmed this position and mandated EU Finance Ministers to prepare an operational framework by mid-2013.

A considerable amount of work has been undertaken at technical, senior official and Ministerial level on the ESM’s Direct Bank Recapitalisation (DBR) Instrument. This work culminated in agreement on the operational framework for the ESM’s Direct Bank Recapitalisation Instrument at the June 20th Eurogroup of Euro-area Finance Ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

This framework builds upon the agreement secured on the 29th of June 2012, and is an important step in the Eurozone’s efforts to restore market confidence in the Eurozone. It is expected that the earliest date that the ESM DBR can come into effect will be towards the end of the first half of 2014, given the need to satisfy national procedures, and also the requirement to have the Single Supervisory Mechanism in place beforehand.

The European Central Bank, as the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), will complete assessments of banks in the Eurozone. Asset quality reviews will take place in Quarter 4 2013 or early 2014. These will be followed by stress tests in early 2014. Both tests will assess capital and identify any bank shortfalls that might need to access the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Finally, we have succeeded in having provision for retrospective recapitalisation included in the framework. There is still a lot of negotiation to be done on this aspect of the facility but the agreement now in place keeps open the possibility for us to apply to the ESM for a retrospective direct recapitalisation of the Irish banks, should we wish to avail of it.

  Question No. 290 answered with Question No. 87.

EU-IMF Programme of Support Value

 291. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the full extent of benefits achieved for the Irish taxpayer and the Exchequer arising from various renegotiations at EU-ECB-IMF level in respect of the bailout, banking guarantee and-or other legacy debts inherited from his predecessors; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [32302/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan There have been a number of improvements to the terms and conditions of our Programme of Financial Support, including the loans, since it was initially agreed in late 2010. For example, we have agreed the reversal of the minimum wage cut, and also on the use of up to half of the proceeds of asset sales for investment in projects of a commercial nature. Changes to the programme loans have included reductions of the interest rates and, in the case of the EU facilities, extension of maturities. In addition, we have negotiated the replacement of the Promissory Notes issued to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) with a series of longer term, non-amortising floating rate Government bonds. When the programme was initially agreed in late 2010, the average interest rate on the €67.5 billion available to drawdown from the external sources was estimated by the EU Commission to be 5.82% on the basis of market rates at that time. The average life of the borrowing was initially set at 7.5 years.

In July 2011, the Euro Area Heads of State or Government (HOSG) agreed to reduce the cost of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) loans, and similar reductions were subsequently agreed for the interest rates on the loans provided by the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) and also by the bilateral lenders (UK, Sweden, Denmark).

In the case of the EFSF, which is providing a total of €17.7 billion in funding to Ireland, the changes to the interest rates removed the interest rate margin, which was 2.47%. The revised pricing structure for the EFSF loans incorporates a guarantee commitment fee of 0.1% per annum and a service fee to cover the cost of operations of the EFSF. It also provides that EFSF lending done after that point will be done on a floating rate basis. The overall reduction in the interest rate margin which Ireland pays to the EFSF is estimated to be in the region of 2.7 to 2.8 percentage points which includes the margin and other structural changes. The original weighted average maturity of Ireland’s EFSF loans was increased to 15 years at this time.

For the EFSM facility, in October 2011 the EU Council of Ministers approved an EU Commission proposal to eliminate the margin of 2.925% on the facility which, when fully drawn, will amount to €22.5 billion. This applied to EFSM disbursements back to the date upon which they were issued. The actual cost of funding depends on the prevailing market rates at the time of each drawdown. The original weighted average maturity of EFSM was extended from 7.5 years to 12.5 years at this time.

The United Kingdom bilateral loan of GBP 3.3 billion has been re-negotiated to remove the interest rate margin of 2.29% although the base interest rate has been changed from a GBP interest rate swap level to the UK Debt Management Office cost of funds plus a service fee of 0.18%. The bilateral loans with Sweden and Denmark, which will amount to total disbursements of €1 billion by the end of the programme, were negotiated after the interest rate margin reductions on both the EFSF and EFSM facilities and their interest rate is floating three month EURIBOR plus a margin of 1.00%.

Given these interest cost changes, the total savings on the original EU facilities, based on the original average maturity of 7.5 years, is some €9 billion, or approximately 5.5% of 2012 GDP. This reduces the annual repayment on these loans by an average of €1.2 billion per year over the initially envisaged 7.5 years.

In April of this year, EU Finance Ministers agreed in principle to further extend the maximum weighted average maturities on our EFSF and EFSM loans by up to 7 years, over and above the extension agreed in 2011. This further maturity extension removes a refinancing requirement of some €20 billion for the Irish State in the years 2015 to 2022. This extension of maturities has a number of significant benefits for Ireland, including smoothing our redemption profile, improving long term debt sustainability and it also has a positive impact on the cost of Exchequer borrowing through creating further downward pressure on our borrowing costs.

As you are aware the Euro-Area Heads of State or Government agreed on 29th June 2012 to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns, and that when a Single Supervisory Mechanism is in place involving the ECB, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) could recapitalize banks directly. The Euro-Area Heads of State or Government confirmed this position and mandated EU Finance Ministers to prepare an operational framework by mid-2013.

A considerable amount of work has been undertaken at technical, senior official and Ministerial level on the ESM’s Direct Bank Recapitalisation Instrument (DBR). This work culminated in agreement on the main features of the operational framework for the ESM’s DBR Instrument at the June 20th Eurogroup meeting of Euro-Area Finance Ministers in Luxembourg.

We have succeeded in having specific provision for retrospective recapitalisation included in the framework, which states that “The potential retroactive application of the instrument should be decided on a case-by-case basis and by mutual agreement.” There is still a lot of negotiation to be done on this but the agreement now in place keeps the possibility to apply to the ESM for a retrospective direct recapitalisation of the Irish banks open for us, should we wish to avail of it.

This overall framework builds upon the agreement secured on the 29th of June 2012, and is an important step in the Euro Area’s efforts in this regard.

It is expected that the earliest date that the ESM Direct Bank Recapitalisation Instrument can come into effect will be around mid-2014, given the need to satisfy national procedures, and also the requirement to have the Single Supervisory Mechanism in place and operational beforehand.

In February this year, the successful conclusion of negotiations with the ECB facilitated the replacement by the Irish Government of the Promissory Notes issued to IBRC with a series of longer term, non-amortising floating rate Government bonds. This has resulted in significant benefits to the State including spreading the cost of the Promissory Notes from a weighted average life of c.7-8 years to c.34-35 years at a lower funding cost for the State, resulting in significant annual interest savings.

There have been no renegotiations of the bank guarantee at EU/ECB/IMF level and therefore no savings arise. It may be said, however, that the general improvement in financial stability that the Government has brought about through the actions that it has taken, facilitated the ending of the bank guarantee for new liabilities from 29 March, 2013, onwards.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

 292. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the extent to which small and medium enterprises' working capital requirements continue to fall short of what is needed in the present climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [32303/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Access to finance for SMEs is a key aspect of the Action Plan for Jobs 2013. It is the Government’s vision that all viable businesses operating in Ireland should have the opportunity to access sufficient finance to meet their enterprise needs in a manner that supports growth and employment in the economy. The working capital requirements of many SMEs are often fulfilled by short term credit in the form of overdrafts or short term loans. The Government has imposed SME lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Each bank was required to sanction lending of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion last year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. Both banks have achieved their 2011 and 2012 targets and the recent Credit Review Office report commented “At the end of quarter 1, both banks’ sanctions are on or near where they would be expected to meet the target, taking account of the seasonality which has been identified over the past two years.”

  The pillar banks are expected to lend to viable businesses both for investment and working capital purposes. The Credit Review Office is available to assist businesses which have been refused credit. The recent CRO report shows that the Credit Review Office upheld the credit appeal in 135 cases or 57% of cases decided. The upheld appeals have resulted in €16.8M credit being made available to SMEs and farms, protecting 1,297 jobs. This shows that there is a strong prospect of success for SMEs going to the Credit Review Office and I would strongly encourage SMEs refused credit to seek a review by the Office.

  The Government has taken a number of actions, particularly where SMEs have been refused credit, to improve the situation in relation to credit availability to SMEs.

  The Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee scheme addresses the situation where the SME is outside the risk appetite of the banks. This can arise because of the SME’s lack of collateral or the banks’ lack of understanding of the business model, the market, the sector or the technology. The three main SME lenders are all participating in the Guarantee scheme.

  The Microenterprise Loan Fund Scheme will provide loans of up to €25k to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises employing less than 10 people, who have commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks.    

Mortgage Protection Policies

 293. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the extent to which his Department continues to monitor the level of default in respect of mortgage protection or life cover by various insurance companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32304/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan My Department does not keep up to date information on the level of default by insurance companies with particular reference to mortgage protection or life cover. I have made enquiries with the Central Bank about this matter which I understand relates to cases where a person can no longer afford to pay for the protection and/or has claim rejected.

  The Central Bank has informed me that it does not collect this information.

  It should be noted that if a policyholder has a complaint about an insurance company not honouring a claim on a policy, they can refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman for adjudication http://www.financialombudsman.ie/.

Suicide Prevention

 294. Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he is willing to devise an anti-suicide, prevention and awareness strategy or policy for post-primary school students to undertake in view of the fact that they are too young to avail of the existing programmes on offer like assist and safe talk.  [31463/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I am also aware of the serious problem of youth suicide and of the role that schools can play in the area of prevention and ensuring the education system is more responsive to those with emotional or mental health difficulties.

I can inform the Deputy that last January I launched the Well-Being in Post-Primary Schools: Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention, which were developed by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Health. They are informed by consultation with key education partners and by the findings of recent research. The guidelines provide practical guidance to post-primary schools on how they can promote mental health and well-being in an integrated way and they also provide evidence-based advice on how to support young people who may be at risk of suicidal behaviour.

The Guidelines have been developed to bring coherence to and build upon the multitude of practices that are already in place in schools to promote well-being. They emphasise the need to integrate all elements by using a coordinated whole-school approach in the promotion of positive mental health. This involves building and integrating school self-evaluation processes, implementing the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum, developing the whole-school guidance plan, adopting the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) continuum of support, and building effective inter-agency relationships. Support for schools will be integrated into existing CPD work plans for the SPHE support service and will be coordinated nationally in collaboration with NEPS and HSE to ensure a streamlined approach. Copies of the Guidelines have been circulated to schools authorities.

  In addition in the same period I had published, along with my colleague, Minister Fitzgerald, an Action Plan on Bullying which sets out twelve actions to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools. I have ring-fenced €500,000 to support implementation of these actions this year.

Officials from my Department have already commenced work on the implementation of the actions. In particular, an awareness raising initiative on cyber bullying targeted at young people is already underway and my Department is supporting the Stand Up! Awareness Week Against Homophobic & Transphobic Bullying in second level schools which took place in March.

Work has also commenced on developing new anti-bullying procedures for schools in consultation with the school management bodies, teacher unions and national parents councils. These new procedures are due to issue to schools for the start of the next school year. Preliminary work has commenced on other aspects of the Action Plan on Bullying. Implementation will continue in the coming months.

Also the Framework for Junior Cycle, published in October 2012, is underpinned by 8 principles one of which is "Wellbeing", Through Wellbeing "the student experience will contribute directly to their physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing and resilience. Learning takes place in a climate focused on collective wellbeing of school, community and society". The Framework contains 24 Statements of Learning which students should experience. One of these statements aims to ensure that the student "takes action to safeguard and promote his/her wellbeing and that of others".

In addition, there are six key skills required for successful learning by students across the curriculum and for learning beyond school. One of the six key skills of Junior Cycle is "Staying Well".

  As part of the revised Junior Cycle, short courses are being prepared by the NCCA not only in PE but also in SPHE and will be available for schools from September 2014. These courses may be assessed as a part of the School Certificate in the new Junior Cycle. The overall focus of my Department's Well-being and Suicide prevention policy is to provide a safe and supportive growing environment for students imparting skills and knowledge in relation to their emotional well-being and development and assisting them to seek help when they or their peers are in crisis or approaching crisis. Programmes such as Asist and SafeTALK are designed to impart skills and knowledge in recognising developing emotional crisis situations among young people and identifying the appropriate support and referral paths to tend to their needs. Both programmes, in the formal education setting, are by their nature aimed at adults tending to young people rather then for use by young people themselves.


Last Updated: 08/05/2020 10:42:31 First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page