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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 225-234
 Header Item Financial Transactions Tax
 Header Item Banks Recapitalisation
 Header Item Additional Voluntary Contributions
 Header Item Financial Services Ombudsman Issues
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Teaching Qualifications
 Header Item Education Standards
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Payments
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 789 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 225-234

Financial Transactions Tax

 225. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his plans regarding the upcoming vote on the financial transactions tax at the ECOFIN meeting of Finance Ministers; the criteria on which he will base his decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3001/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The upcoming vote at ECOFIN relates to the Council Decision authorising enhanced co-operation in the area of financial transaction tax (FTT) and not an FTT directive itself. Should authorisation on enhanced co-operation be granted, the Commission will bring forward a revised proposal for an FTT to be introduced in participating member states. Ireland currently holds the role of Presidency of the Council and it is anticipated we will be chairing meetings on this proposal during our EU Presidency from January to June 2013.

Opinion on the FTT is polarised. As Chair, we will seek to engage in a careful balancing of the desire by the participating Member States to move ahead quickly, with the rights of the non-participating member states to have their concerns heard.

Ireland will abstain from voting at the upcoming vote to ensure our neutrality. However, based on the discussion at the COREPER meeting last Friday, 18 January, it is expected there will be a qualifying majority of votes in favour of authorising enhanced co-operation in the area of FTT.

Banks Recapitalisation

 226. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will provide an update on recent financial interactions that he has had with Bank of Ireland. [3006/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy is aware the Department has put in place Relationship Framework agreements for each financial institution in which the State has a shareholding. The framework documents define the relationship between the Minister and the relevant institutions. These documents are structured to ensure that the institutions operate on a commercial basis and independent of the Minister in respect of their day to day operations. As a result of the State’s recapitalisation of Bank of Ireland, the State has a number of different investment interests in the Bank including equity, Preference Shares and the investment in the Contingent Capital Notes (CCNs).

These give rise to a number of financial interactions between the Government and the Bank of Ireland. For instance, in July of 2012, the Government received the coupon interest on the CCNs of €100m. In February 2012, the Government received a dividend of €188m in cash, on its preference shares and this year’s dividend is expected, again in cash, next month.

Under the terms of the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee (ELG) scheme, the Bank remits ELG fees on a quarterly basis to the Department. The ELG fees received by the Department from Bank of Ireland in 2012 were €375.4m. In addition Bank of Ireland is invoiced periodically in respect of administration and legal costs associated with implementation of the ELG scheme, the fees for which were €92,087 for the period November 2011-October 2012.

Two weeks ago, the Government was pleased to announce the sale of the Contingent Capital Notes (CCNs) at a profit to the Government of €10m. The transaction settled on Tuesday the 15th of January and the State was paid proceeds of just over €1,056 million, comprising the nominal principal amount of €1,000 million, interest accrued of over €46 million covering the period 29th July 2012 to the disposal date, and the profit of €10 million.

The Deputy should also be aware that officials from my Department meet with representatives of Bank of Ireland on a regular basis – including a monthly management meeting. This is the main forum for the Bank and Department to discuss matters of financial interest.

Additional Voluntary Contributions

 227. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan when measures announced in Budget 2013, which will see moneys withdrawn from pension funds/AVCs, will take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3020/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan In my Budget 2013 speech, I announced that I would make provision in Finance Bill 2013 for persons making Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) used to supplement their main scheme retirement benefits to withdraw up to 30% of the value of those contributions. Any amounts withdrawn will be subject to tax at the individual’s marginal rate. The option will be available for 3 years from the passing of the 2013 Finance Bill which is expected to become law in early April at the latest. This is a restricted measure which will enable rather than incentivise certain individuals to access part of their pension savings beyond their regular or compulsory pension contributions. I do not wish to damage future pension provision and it is important that individuals continue to provide for their retirement. For these reasons, I have no plans to extend the measure beyond AVCs.

Financial Services Ombudsman Issues

 228. Deputy Regina Doherty Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan following the case in the High Court in May 2012 involving the Financial Service Ombudsman, if he will now provide further clarification on the terminating of hire purchase agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3134/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Firstly, I would like to confirm to the Deputy that the Financial Services Ombudsman is independent in the performance of his duties and it would not be appropriate for me to comment in any way on the decisions he takes or on the appeals to the High Court in relation to those decisions. Neither could I comment in any way regarding a ruling of the High Court nor do I provide clarification on the law. The law governing hire purchase agreements is set out in Part VI of the Consumer Credit Act 1995, as amended, and in the Fifth Schedule to that Act.

Appointments to State Boards

 229. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will report on the new procedures the Government have introduced for appointments to State boards. [3575/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan In response to the Deputy’s question the following appointments were made in respect of bodies under the aegis of my Department since March 2011.

Fiscal Advisory Council

The following people were appointed to the Fiscal Advisory Council on 7th July 2011:

  Mr Sebastian Barnes

  Professor Alan Barrett

  Dr Donal Donovan

  Professor John McHale, Chair

  Dr Roisin O’Sullivan

  As Minister for Finance I announced the establishment of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council on a non-statutory basis on 7 July 2011. When establishing the Council, I stated that the Council would be an independent body whose existence and independence would be underpinned by legislation to be brought forward by Government in the Fiscal Responsibility Bill.   

  The Chairman did not undergo interview by Oireachtas Committee but the Fiscal Council appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform on a number of occasions to discuss their fiscal assessment reports.

  I appointed the members having regard to a number of criteria including the desirability of having a mix of appropriate backgrounds (academia, the financial sector/financial markets and public finance), macroeconomic/microeconomic expertise and a strong international dimension, as well as the need to take gender considerations into account. I am satisfied that the appointed members have the mix of skills and experience, including in relation to fiscal affairs, to ensure that the Council will be highly effective in fulfilling its mandate.

  The Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012 was brought into legislative effect on 27th November 2012. The Council commenced on a Statutory basis from the 31st December 2012. The membership remain the same as above.

National Asset Management Agency

  Mr John Mulcahy was appointed to the Board of the National Asset Management Agency. He was not appointed under the new procedures for board appointments. His appointment was a National Asset Management Agency Executive Appointment. Mr Mulcahy is head of Asset Management within the National Asset Management Agency.

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC)

  All appointments to the IBRC Board of Directors are made with the approval of the Minister for Finance in accordance with the provisions of the relationship framework between the Minister and the Bank.

  Since March 2011 IBRC has made the following Board appointments:

  Oliver Ellingham - Appointed 14 October 2011

  Roger McGreal - Appointed 15 November 2011

  Alan Ridgway - Appointed 9 August 2012

  Maurice Horan - Appointed 9 August 2012

Credit Union Restructuring Board (ReBo)

  New procedures were used in establishing ReBo which was set up on an administrative basis on 31 August 2012. The Credit Union and Co-operation with Overseas Regulators Act 2012 has, from 1 January 2013 placed ReBo on a statutory footing. ReBo’s main function is to facilitate and support the restructuring process for credit unions which is to be completed on a voluntary, incentivised and time bound basis.

  To identify suitable independent members the Department publicly advertised for expressions of interest. Eligible persons required expertise and experience at a senior level in a number of areas. Over 100 expressions of interest were received and a number of candidates were interviewed by the Department. Following this process, suitable candidates were invited to become members of Credit Union Restructuring Board (ReBo). The Board also comprises representatives from the credit union sector, the Department of Finance and the Central Bank of Ireland.

  The following people were appointed to the Board of ReBo:

  Mr Bobby McVeigh – Chairman

  Mr Brendan Burke

  Mr Tom Kavanagh

  Mr Eoin McGettigan

  Mr Stephen O’Donovan

  Ms Kathleen Prendergast

  Mr Joe O’Toole

  Mr Pat Fay - Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU)

  Mr Jimmy Johnstone - Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU)

  Mr Kevin Johnson - Credit Union Development Association (CUDA)

  Mr Tim Molan - Credit Union Managers Association (CUMA)

  Mr Neil Ryan - Assistant Secretary, Financial Services Division, Department of Finance

  Ms Elaine Byrne - Deputy Head, Registrar of Credit Unions

The State Claims Policy Committee

  The following people were appointed to the State Claims Agency Policy Committee with effect from 1 July 2012

  Ms Wendy Thompson

  Mr Charlie Hardy

  Mr Fachtna Murphy

  The appointments were made using the new procedures in place for making appointments to boards.

  In addition Dr Noel Whelan was reappointed as Chairman on 1 July 2012.

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

  Mr. John Moran Secretary General of the Department of Finance was appointed to the board the National Treasury Management Agency Committee on 6 March 2012.

  The new procedures were not used as it has been the norm to appoint the Secretary General of the Department of Finance to the Advisory Committee since the establishment of the National Treasury Management Agency.

Board of the National Development Finance Agency

  In relation to the Board of the National Development Finance Agency the following appointments were made in July 2012 using the new procedures:

  Mr Gerry Murray

  Ms Petrina Smyth

  In addition, Mr. Robert Watt Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was appointed to the board in July 2012.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 230. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the options available to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo who has been asked to supply information in respect of their partner and in support of their higher education grant application which is not attainable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2277/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that on the 21st January 2013, a request for further documentation in relation to residency and nationality was issued to the student referred to by the Deputy. As soon as the requested documentation is received, the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Teaching Qualifications

 231. Deputy Brian Walsh Information on Brian Walsh Zoom on Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will consider allowing persons qualified in both primary and post-primary teaching to combine their service at both levels for the purpose of the probationary service requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2357/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Following consultation with teacher unions, school management bodies and the Teaching Council, Circular 0029/2012 was issued by my Department last year. It is available on my Department's website. The circular sets out the conditions which govern the probationary process for primary teachers.

While responsibility for establishing procedures and criteria for the probation of teachers, including service requirements, has transferred to the Teaching Council, the conditions outlined in this circular will continue to pertain until the end of the school year 2012/2013. If a teacher is not being successful in securing the type of employment which is necessary to meet the registration condition in respect of probation/post-qualification experience, he/she may apply in writing to the Council for an extension to the timeframe. The Council's policy with regard to registration with conditions and procedures for seeking extensions are available on the Teaching Council website.

Later this year the Teaching Council intends to publish procedures and criteria for induction and probation which are expected to come into effect in the future.

Education Standards

 232. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his views on the recent report carried out by employers groups that shows a concern of writing ability of Irish graduates; if he will be acting on this report to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2423/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As part of the implementation of the National Strategy for Higher Education, IBEC, in cooperation with the Higher Education Authority and higher education institutions, completed the first pilot national survey of employers in December 2012. The overall results of the survey, which are available on the HEA website (www.hea.ie), were very positive, with over 75% of companies expressing confidence that graduates have the right workplace and transferable skills and relevant subject or discipline knowledge. While satisfaction levels with written communications was lower than in other specific skill areas, only 14% of employers reported being dissatisfied with these skills. The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 includes ease in written communication as one of the key generic skills that students should acquire during their undergraduate education. Support of the implementation of the Strategy recommendations in relation to improving this and other teaching and learning quality outcomes will be a key priority of the new National Forum for Teaching and Learning which I launched last November.

Student Grant Scheme Payments

 233. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when a persons (details supplied) in County Cavan application to Student Universal Support Ireland will be processed; when first payment will be received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2476/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have been informed by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that the documentation supplied by the student in question in support of her grant application is not adequate.

  SUSI wrote again to the student on 17th January 2013 in relation to this matter. As soon as the requested documentation is received, the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 234. Deputy Joanna Tuffy Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if under the student grant scheme 2012 there are any exceptions to the rules as set out under Article 15(7)(b)(ii) which states that having attended but not completed a level six course you must complete the equivalent period of study before being eligible for a grant; Article 12(6) which states you must have a five year break in studies prior to entering a course before you can be assessed as a second chance student and is there any discretion allowed if the rules would cause unfairness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2497/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Article 15(8) of the Student Grant Scheme 2012 provides awarding authorities with discretion to waive the provisions of Article 15(7)(b)(ii) in exceptional circumstances and consider funding for a repeat period of study, in line with guidelines drawn up by the Minister.

The guidelines include the nature of the exceptional circumstances as documented by the applicant, when they occurred and the period of time over which they continued, how the circumstances impacted on the applicant's ability to participate in their course of study, take exams or submit projects on time and whether the circumstances happened to the applicant or a third party.

There is no discretion for awarding authorities in relation to the provisions of Article 13(6), which is the relevant governing article in the 2012 student grant scheme for second chance students.

The intention of this article is to focus resources on genuine second chance and mature students. The five years will ensure that the emphasis is, as intended, on facilitating these students to return to education and I have no plans to change this.


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