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 Header Item Fisheries Disputes (Continued)
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Administration

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 821 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Browne: Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne] This would allow the Kilmore Quay fishermen fish until the end of the year. Is that possible and has the Minister had any discussions in that regard? Will the Minister consider the issue?

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris Considering the quota from last year to this year, there is a marked decline in the order of approximately 400 tonnes in megrim in area seven. A fisherman is down approximately 400 tonnes with monkfish as well in area seven. There has been a reduction in the quota.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy is being selective. What about cod, haddock, whiting and herring?

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris I am talking specifically about what these boats were fishing for. The Minister is also aware of the problems surrounding discard and bycatch, all of which are ongoing and unresolved, although I understand they will be resolved over a number of years. These fishermen are victims at this point though. We need to see equality and fairness. I do not care what facts and figures are put out but it is not right that the French Government has a stake in Irish waters to the detriment of Irish fishermen. That is the issue. They have six times the quota in Irish waters, and they are not even close to filling it. At the same time the people here are trying to make ends meet, pay for boats and so forth but they are effectively-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Derek Keating): Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating Thank you.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris I do not care what word we use for people coming in a bit over quota or with bycatch or discard.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Derek Keating): Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating Please allow the Minister to respond.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris I cannot see how they can be seen as criminals.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I share the frustration that the Irish fishing industry does not have a higher share of certain quota species but I cannot change a Common Fisheries Policy arrangement without getting a majority of countries across the European Union to support me in that. Both Deputies know the legal practicalities of what is possible, and I have focused instead on putting the scientific arguments together to build stocks and have an increase in the quota allocation linked to the building of those stocks, as we have done with herring in the Celtic Sea, for example, which has been a great success story.

We need to focus on what is possible rather than having the age-old argument which we cannot change about relative stability on waters deemed as European but for which Ireland has a responsibility in the allocation of stocks. There has been mention of swaps and we have been very active in the swaps market this year with France, getting a significant increase in the amount of prawns, which is the second most valuable fishery for the fishing industry after mackerel. I argue that it is the most important fishery in terms of the number of fishermen relying on it. We have seen an increase because the industry made a conscious choice, of which I was a part, to catch 10% of this year's prawn quota last year, as we needed prawns at the end of last year. We have swapped some pelagic stocks to increase the amount of prawns we can catch, and we are always looking for an active swaps market in order to get more fish for our fishermen.

Nobody is more supportive of the fishing industry than I am. I want to build it, employ more people, get more value for fish and work with companies like that run by the O'Flahertys, who run a very significant business in the south east. They are very experienced and very good fishermen but they must have the same rules applied to them as everybody else. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, has a legal responsibility to ensure fair play. If the O'Flahertys catch more fish, it means others who are legitimately catching fish would get a smaller quota the next month. This is about an even playing field for everybody and the industry working together with my Department and the SFPA to allocate quotas on a monthly basis throughout the year to ensure we get the maximum economic return throughout the year.

That is the process that has been happening but unfortunately, according to the SFPA, incidents last week mean the O'Flahertys have worked outside those rules, and the authority has had to take action as a result. I hope the negotiations and conversations this week, as well as the affidavit on the table, can progress the issue so we can see the boats out fishing again, I hope as soon as in the next couple of days.

Rent Supplement Scheme Administration

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I thank the Minister for coming to address the issue, the crux of which is the discrepancy in rent allowance and the limits in areas in the southern part of my constituency, which for all means and purposes are in the greater Dublin metropolitan area, compared with the areas just inside the Dublin border, such as Finglas, Swords, Santry etc. I will speak to the merits that the Minister tried to achieve when the new rent limits were published in June, as she sought to provide value for money for the Department of Social Protection, which is very important. She also sought to ensure people in those areas did not get priced out of the market and rent allowances were suitable for the rental market that would be used by families.

  The Department used as an area of information when it surmised the rent limits and I will quote some prices for an average three-bedroom semi-detached house. This example would suit a couple with three children, although it relates to all other categories as well. To rent a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Ashbourne in south Meath costs €1,100, and the cost is the same in Ratoath. In Finglas the cost to rent a similar property is €1,100 and in Swords it would cost €1,200 to rent a similar property. The allowance for families in Finglas and Swords is €950 but if a person tries to rent a house in Ashbourne or Ratoath, the allowance is only €650. Rents in the areas are exactly the same but there is a €300 discrepancy in the supplement provided. I could provide similar examples for two and one bedroom apartments, as well as cases where people rent rooms in houses. In every category there is a major discrepancy between what is available ten miles down the road in Finglas versus what is available in Ashbourne.

  I understand the Department considered Meath as a county in its entirety and I appreciate that it is much cheaper to rent in Athboy, Enfield or Kells than it is in Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin and Ratoath. It is not the fault of people living in those towns that the metropolitan area of Dublin city has expanded not only just into the counties of Meath but also into Kildare, Louth and Wicklow. Rent supplements should be reflective of that. Although we have been beating the drum regarding rents in Meath for approximately a year, it dismays me further that rent limits in Kildare and Wicklow have been changed to reflect the fact they are part of the greater Dublin metropolitan area, and rents are higher.

  I ask the Minister to reconsider taking Meath as a county in its entirety and recognise that the south corridor of the county is in the greater Dublin metropolitan area. The rents should be reflected as being equal to those commanded in the Dublin area, so rent supplement allowances should take that into account.

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. There are currently approximately 81,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided €403 million in 2013. The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short-term assistance and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.

Revised rent limits under the rent supplement scheme have come into force with effect from Monday, 17 June 2013, and will be in place until 31 December 2014. The new rent limits have been determined following an extensive review of the private rental market, based on the most up-to-date data available. The Department currently funds approximately 30% of the private rented sector so it is essential that the rent limits are kept under review. The new rent limits have been set using the 35th percentile, ensuring that sufficient housing is available for recipients of the scheme.

There have been increases in the maximum rent limits in Dublin and there have been some reductions across a number of counties, including some categories in County Meath, reflecting the conditions in the rental markets in those counties.

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