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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 18-34
 Header Item Departmental Budgets
 Header Item Road Safety Strategy
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Funding
 Header Item Tourist Accommodation
 Header Item Sale of Aer Lingus
 Header Item Road Tolls
 Header Item Aviation Sector
 Header Item Regional Airports
 Header Item Shannon Airport Facilities
 Header Item Search and Rescue Service
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item Taxi Regulations
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme
 Header Item Departmental Budgets
 Header Item Proposed Legislation

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 76 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 18-34

Departmental Budgets

 18. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the budget for his Department to meet in full the projected requirements in the coming year; the extent if any to which any unforeseen expenditure will be provided for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57194/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly My Department’s 2013 Budget allocations are published and available on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform website. My Departments Vote 31 Gross allocation for 2013 is €1,658m comprising of a Capital expenditure allocation of €900m and a Current expenditure allocation of €758m.

As part of the Estimates and budgetary processes, my Department consulted with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the projected requirements for 2013 and the final allocations will meet the expected expenditure requirement. Should any unforeseen expenditure requirement arise it will be dealt with, in accordance with the public financial procedures, by way of virement or a supplementary estimate.

  Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 8.

Road Safety Strategy

 20. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will report on the upcoming new road strategy for 2013 to 2020; the measures that he believes should be included in the new strategy; if this will include roadside drug testing measures [57251/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Road Safety Authority is in the process of preparing the next Road Safety Strategy, which will cover an 8-year period from 2013 to 2020. The aim of the Strategy, like all previous, will be to save lives and prevent injuries by reducing the number and severity of collisions on our roads.

The Strategy will contain key, definable actions that will seek to achieve this overall aim and to close the gap between Ireland and the best performing countries in the EU. Some of these actions will need to be underpinned by provisions in law and I expect that the Strategy will reflect measures that Minister Varadkar has recently approved for inclusion in the next Road Traffic Bill.

In general, the new Strategy, while not deflecting attention from road fatalities, will concentrate to a significant extent on serious injuries caused by road collisions.

It is the responsibility of the RSA, in the first instance, to draft the new Strategy and submit it to the Minister for consideration.  I understand that consultation with all relevant stakeholders is currently taking place and it is expected that a draft will be received early in the New Year.

In relation to road side drug testing the new Road Traffic Bill, which was recently approved by Government, includes provision for road side impairment testing which will allow Gardaí to test for drugs.

Departmental Agencies Funding

 21. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar in view of the fact that he plans to reduce Fáilte Ireland’s budget from €63.3 million in 2013 to €53.2 million by 2015, his views on whether this will have a negative impact on the tourist industry in terms of visitor numbers and employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57260/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring This question relates to the budget allocation to Fáilte Ireland.

Next year is particularly significant for Irish tourism and Minister Varadkar has allocated a special incremental €7 million from within the Department's overall budget for the Gathering Ireland 2013 initiative. This €7 million is included in Fáilte Ireland’s overall current Grant-in-Aid provision of €63.3 million,although their core allocation in 2013 had been originally set at €56.4million under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure.

Taking into account the difficult choices which the Government has had to make in regard to public expenditure, this provision reflects the recognition by the Government of the contribution that the tourism industry is making to economic recovery, employment and tax receipts and will, I believe, enable Fáilte Ireland to deliver on its remit in 2013.

There is provision in 2013 for total expenditure of just under €140 million on tourism services across a diverse range of activities. This includes a provision for the Tourism Marketing Fund of over €37m in 2013 which will enable Tourism Ireland to fully implement their 2013 Marketing Plans.

Fáilte Ireland also has an allocation of capital funding of €20 million in 2013, of which €19 million is available to support investment in tourism product and €1 million to meet Fáilte Ireland's own internal capital requirements.

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has made available a range of other supports for the tourism industry through the 2011 Jobs Initiative, not least the VAT cut to 9% which will be sustained throughout next year. In addition, the new higher cash VAT threshold of €1.25 million announced in the recent Budget should assist the cash flow of many tourism SMEs.

Tourist Accommodation

 22. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the measures he will take to assist the hotel industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57201/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I refer the Deputy to my answer on this topic to Priority Question 4 of today.

Sale of Aer Lingus

 23. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he or any State agency has tendered for an adviser in relation to the State's 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57217/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly This question concerns the Government's shareholding in Aer Lingus.

A Steering Group has been established to examine the potential options for the disposal of the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus and the issues that may need to be addressed in the context of the disposal of this shareholding. The Steering Group is chaired by my Department and comprises representatives from the Department of Finance, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and NewERA.

NewERA has provided advice to date to the relevant Government Departments, including in relation to valuation of the Government’s shareholding in Aer Lingus. In order to further assist the Inter Departmental Steering Group in considering the options with respect to the State’s shareholding in Aer Lingus, I can confirm that NewERA has recently tendered for the appointment of an adviser to undertake additional analyses focused on evaluating the options for a disposal taking account of the need to maximise the return for the Exchequer whilst protecting the interests of the consumer and preserving a competitive environment.

Road Tolls

 24. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the amount of money collected from road tolls to date in 2012; the amount of this money taken in by the State; if he will provide a breakdown based on the road the tolls were collected from and the companies operating them. [57245/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly This Question is about outlining the income from road tolling.

  The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, has responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The implementation of individual national road schemes, including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects which provide for tolling, are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993-2007. Moreover, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is very specifically vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act, 1993 (as amended). The contracts for the privately-operated toll schemes are, therefore, commercial agreements between the NRA and the PPP concessionaires concerned.

  Bearing in mind the circumstances I have outlined, I am not in a position to provide information in relation to tolling income from these agreements or the dispersal of that income. However, the income from tolling activity on PPP routes is published in the NRA's annual accounts in global format. This would include income from all tolled roads including the M50 and Dublin Port Tunnel. Copies of the NRA's annual accounts for the years up to 2011 are available in the Dail Library.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I am refering his Question to the NRA for further reply. Please advise Minister Varadkar's private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Aviation Sector

 25. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans for aviation in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57203/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly My Department's Statement of Strategy 2011-2014 outlines the over-arching goal for the aviation sector, which is to ensure that it supports Ireland's economic and social goals in a safe, competitive, cost-effective and sustainable manner and to ensure maximum connectivity for Ireland with the rest of the world.

Within this context, one of my key priorities for next year is the development of a new civil aviation policy. To launch this initiative the Irish Aviation Authority organised a successful conference on 3 December 2012.

Building on that start both Minister Varadkar and I will, early next year, launch a six month consultation process which will include an online questionnaire to facilitate the widest possible range of inputs. This consultation process will run in parallel with Ireland’s EU Presidency during which time my Department will also progress various EU aviation legislative dossiers.

We intend publishing a draft policy in quarter four next year and to seek further comments on that by end 2013. Taking account of feedback received, the overall aim is to be in a position to publish a formal policy paper by the end of March 2014. A key priority in 2013 will be to establish Shannon NewCo and restore the airport to passenger growth.

Finally, we shall continue to act as a champion for improved air access to Ireland, be it increased capacity on existing routes or the development of new routes.

Regional Airports

 26. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to deliver on proposals by Ireland West Airport, Knock to create 500 new jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57253/12]

 45. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will report on discussions with the management of Ireland West Airport, Knock County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57252/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 45 together.

Plans for the development of the privately-owned regional airports, including Knock Airport, are a matter for the management of those airports. However, both I and officials of my Department have met with the Chairman and senior management of Knock airport on a number of occasions over the past six months regarding their future plans for developing the airport.

I have rationalised the system of State support for the privately-owned regional airports and the Government now has a settled policy in relation to those airports. In line with the recommendations of the Value for Money Review on the Regional Airports Programme published in 2011, funding under that Programme for the period 2012-2014 has been consolidated on four regional airports including Knock. The focus now is on airports working towards sustainability over the coming years without an on-going need for Government financial support.

In his recent Budget speech, the Minister for Finance announced that he will be putting in place measures to facilitate the construction of hangars and ancillary facilities that will be key to attracting additional aviation sector organisations and jobs to the country. These measures will be available on a national basis to all Irish airports who wish to avail of them, including Knock Airport.

With regard to existing supports for Knock Airport, it should be noted that the Airport, along with the other regional airports which are not owned by the State, has been supported over the years under the Regional Airports Programme which is aimed at ensuring balanced regional development. Under that programme, Knock Airport has received around €40m since 1993. This includes funding for the PSO air services, which although paid directly to the airlines, also supports the airport. Over €1m is being provided this year to the Airport, despite the difficult economic circumstances of the country.

In a wider context, I should point out that the development of a new civil aviation policy was initiated at a conference earlier this month and will be pursued through 2012, leading to the adoption of a new policy in 2014. In that context, I expect the role of both State and regional airports to be fully explored with submissions being made by the airports, including Knock.

Shannon Airport Facilities

 27. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will clarify his statement regarding Shannon Airport when he welcomed enormous possibilities for additional military flights; the kind of military flights he was referring; his views on the use of Irish airspace by foreign military forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57241/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Deputy’s question relates to comments by Minister Varadkar regarding flights related to the on-going transiting of military personnel through Shannon airport. While they are often described as military flights, they are in fact civilian flights as they are civilian charter aircraft. Because they carry military personnel and equipment, the flights are subject to the provisions of the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973, as amended, which is administered by my Department.

Where opportunities are presented that would create the conditions for an expansion of such flights, the Government will in principle support such developments.

With regard to the use of Irish airspace by foreign military aircraft, this is a matter for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and it is governed by the provisions of the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952. Foreign military aircraft seeking to fly over or land in the State can only do so with the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Search and Rescue Service

 28. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on his action plan to address concerns regarding maritime transport and marine emergency response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57214/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Deputy' question relates to the development of the action plan relating in response to Value for Money (VFM) reports on the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) and the Marine Survey Office (MSO).

The recommendations of the two reports focus on achieving efficiencies through better utilisation of existing resources and the deployment of resources to areas they believe constitute significant gaps in service provision. The recommendations include strengthening business processes and the introduction of appropriate integrated IT systems to underpin more efficient service delivery. The need to address specific gaps in services, in particular in relation to oil pollution preparedness, prevention and response, Coast Guard volunteer training and oversight and the enduring backlogs in the transposition of international legislation, are highlighted, as is the need for more accountability based on greater transparency and better management information and the need to enhance risk assessment and mitigation in a number of respects.

My Department is finalising the action plan to respond to the VfM recommendations and it is expected that this will be completed early in the new year and will be submitted to Government then. The Department's analysis of the recommendations entails very detailed consideration of the options available for action, including obtaining additional external consultancy advice on the operation of the three Coast Guard co-ordination centres in Dublin, Malin and Valentia. It is however important to recognise that resources available to the maritime services are very limited and they have to be deployed on a prioritised basis and as effectively and efficiently as possible to address the most urgent needs.

On foot of this analysis Minister Varadkar advised the House that after careful consideration of the various options available it is his intention to propose that the three Coast Guard co-ordination centres will remain open and that none will be closed. Rather, through the utilisation of the most modern communications and IT infrastructure across a single national Coast Guard network, Minister Varadkar will be proposing that the three centres will be more closely aligned and integrated. The three centres will continue to deliver services but will be required to deliver new efficiencies in how these services are provided.

As part of the action plan Minister Varadkar will propose to address a number of related matters affecting or associated with the delivery of maritime safety and emergency response services highlighted in other reports, such as the recent review of Ireland's emergency towing services as part of the Programme for Government and audits undertaken internally, by the EU and the International Maritime Organisation.

Public Transport

 29. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update in installing wi-fi on public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57211/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

In the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), funding for the implementation and development of public transport infrastructure projects, such as the installation of wi-fi on both buses and trains, is provided by my Department to the National Transport Authority (NTA) for allocation to projects and programmes. Noting this I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply in relation to the installation of wi-fi on buses and trains in the GDA.

Outside of the GDA, my Department provides funding directly to Irish Rail for the implementation and development of public transport infrastructure projects, such as the installation of wi-fi on services operated by Irish Rail. I understand that the  WIFI programme on the Irish Rail passenger fleet will be completed by year end.

Nevertheless I have also referred the Deputy's question to Irish Rail for direct reply to provide the full details specifically in relation to the installation of wi-fi on trains outside of the GDA.

Please advise my private office if you don't receive both replies within 10 working days.

Taxi Regulations

 30. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the rationale for the continuation of the sitting of the SPSV licence entry test in view of the oversupply of SPSV drivers on the road currently. [57240/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly As part of the Taxi Regulation Review 2011, the examination of the broad issues for future regulatory policy was assisted by an economic analysis of the taxi market carried out by the consultants, Indecon. The analysis found that a fall in demand for SPSV services over a 3-4 year period had not been matched by a corresponding level of exit from the industry, leading to a clear problem of oversupply. The Indecon analysis suggests that the impact of non-compliant operators and low levels of exit from the industry are significant impacting factors on oversupply.

The future approach of the Review Group recommended in the Review Report is towards improvements in the regulation of qualitative standards in the industry and to encourage exit from the industry of those who operate in breach of the required standards and regulations, through better enforcement. Ensuring standards in the taxi industry commences at the point of entry on application for an SPSV licence.

The skills development test for the SPSV drivers licence was introduced in 2009 and then extended to all licensed drivers by 2012. The purpose of the test is to ensure that the recipient of an SPSV driver licence has a sufficient level of knowledge of their area of operation, and of the regulations governing the industry, to provide the appropriate standard of service to passengers. The test is quite onerous with a low pass rate. Discontinuation of the test would not be an appropriate or proportionate response to the issue of oversupply in the industry and would not solve any of the immediate problems the taxi sector faces.

Sports Capital Programme

 31. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide details of the sports capital grant in terms of the total amount in new funding; the amount allocated thus far; the amount of funding still to be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57259/12]

 46. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar in view of the fact that €12.5 million has been allocated for capital spending on sport for 2013 and that this represents a fall of €5.5 million 30% on the 2012 allocation, if he will provide details of the national and regional projects he intends to fund in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57264/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 46 together.

  €30m is available to me to allocate to successful applicants under the 2012 round of the Sports Capital Programme.  I recently announced almost €26m in provisional allocations for local projects under the 2012 SCP and will shortly be announcing a further €4m in provisional allocations in respect of non-local projects.

  Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 7.

Departmental Budgets

 33. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide in tabular form, a detailed breakdown of his Department’s funding for sports in Budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57256/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The funding allocated to each of the sport subheads in my Department's vote for 2013 is as outlined in the table.

  2013 Allocation

Subhead Subhead Capital Current
- - €m €m
D3 Grants for Sporting Bodies (Sports Capital Programme) 12.5 -
D4 Grants for provision and renovation of Swimming Pools 5.6 -
D5 Irish Sports Council - 43.153
D6 National Sports Campus 4.8 1.498

Proposed Legislation

 34. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when the proposed new Road Traffic Bill will be published; the main new measures comprised in the Bill including any proposed new penalty point offences, including reduced thresholds for learner drivers, N-plates for new drivers for a period of two years and the non-display of L-plates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57250/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Government approved the General Scheme of the new Road Traffic Bill for formal drafting on 11 December 2012. The next step is for the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to examine the General Scheme in consultation with my officials, with a view to producing a formal draft of the Bill. The General Scheme has been published on my Department's website. It is in the nature of such examination and drafting that it is not possible to predict in advance how long this process may take.

The Bill will address a range of issues. These include creating a new category of Novice Drivers who will have to display an 'N' plate, and reducing the threshold for automatic six months disqualification for learners and novices from twelve penalty points to six. Provision will also be made to provide for evidential non-technical impairment tests (e.g. walking a straight line) that may be used in court, and there will be a new procedure to allow for the taking of a blood sample, subject to medical approval, from an unconscious driver following a serious road traffic collision.

I am also including measures arising out of the penalty points review conducted earlier this year. This involves adjustments to the penalty points applying for a number of offences. Penalty points will also apply in future for learners and novices for non-display of 'L' or 'N' plates.

The Bill will also include a number of minor and technical amendments.


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