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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 142 - 146
 Header Item Alcohol Pricing
 Header Item Negative Equity Mortgages
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item State Bodies Expenditure

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 142 - 146

Alcohol Pricing

 142. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the steps, if any, he proposes to take to influence a reduction in the price of non-alcoholic beer on sale in the on and off-trade in view of the relatively high price of such products here and the positive contribution lower prices would have on the demand for alcohol and hence on the very significant costs associated with alcohol-related harm here. [21344/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The issue of the price of non-alcoholic beer on sale is a matter for the Department of Health and Children and I would advise the Deputy to forward her question to them for direct reply.

Negative Equity Mortgages

 143. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he has any plans to assist homeowners who are in negative equity on their homes but need to move due to changing family circumstances but are unable to sell or get a new mortgage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21350/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Central Bank has advised me that it has engaged with mortgage lenders in relation to negative equity mortgages to develop a mortgage product that would allow home owners to sell their existing home and transfer the negative equity portion of the original loan to the new loan. In order to ensure that proposals in relation to such mortgages are consistent with the Central Bank’s consumer protection and prudential policy objectives, the proposed criteria for any such facility need to be agreed in advance between mortgage lenders and the Central Bank. While the provision of negative equity mortgages will facilitate people moving homes and generate transactions in the housing market, it is not expected that there will be a large take up of this product, as all sales must comply with the affordability and suitability provisions set out in the Consumer Protection Code. It should however be noted that a decision to introduce a negative equity type product is a matter for each mortgage lender and is based on commercial and policy considerations. At present some lenders are offering this product, while others are considering making such a product available.

Departmental Expenditure

 144. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the total amount of fees paid out by his Department and agencies under its remit, to PR companies; and if he will list the companies and the fees received for in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 and to date in 2013. [21364/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I take it that the Deputy is referring solely to public relations costs and not to advertising costs that would be incurred by my Department in the normal course of business, such as entries into telephone directories, the placing of advertisements in national newspapers, recruitment advertising, etc. In the period in question my Department, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Appeals Commissioners and Revenue have not incurred any such PR costs.

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) will respond to you under your parliamentary question number 21365/13.

State Bodies Expenditure

 145. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will provide, in tabular form, a list public relations companies that received payments from either the National Assets Management Agency, the National Treasury Management Agency, the National Development Finance Agency, the State Claims Agency or the National Pension Reserve Fund; the overall cost of these payments from each agency named and the level of payments made by each agency to each company listed in respect of work carried in the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. [21365/13]

 146. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of companies or individuals that recently tendered for the renewal of the public relations contract for the National Treasury Management Agency; and if the NTMA secured a reduction in the rate charged in the previous contract. [21366/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.

  The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) does not maintain an internal press office. Instead, its internal communications resources are supported by an external service provider (appointed following a public procurement process) – currently Gordon MRM – in order to offer a full press office and communications service (including out-of-hours contacts for the media) across all the NTMA’s business areas: Debt Management, National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), National Pensions Reserve Fund, National Development Finance Agency, State Claims Agency, NewERA and, during 2010 and 2011, the Banking Unit.

  These arrangements were initially put in place during 2010 in light of a significant increase in the volume of domestic and international media queries being received by the NTMA and associated bodies. In September 2012 the NTMA retendered for the provision of these services. A total of five companies submitted tenders. Following the tender evaluation process the NTMA awarded the contract to Gordon MRM in December 2012.

  The initial contract, in place to end-2012, was based on an hourly rate for services provided. During the term of this contract a 20% reduction in the hourly rate was agreed with effect from June 2011 until the end of the contract. The new contract, which commenced in January 2013, is based on a fixed fee and it is anticipated that this will result in a significant reduction in the overall fees paid by the NTMA.

  NAMA draws on the NTMA’s shared services in a number of areas including its outsourced press office facility. NAMA reimburses the NTMA in respect of the costs of these services attributable to NAMA.

  The overall costs incurred for the provision of the services above (excluding VAT) were as follows:

2010 - €207,255*

2011 - €205,388 (of which €112,353 was charged to NAMA)

2012 - €223,723 (of which €142,653 was charged to NAMA)

2013 - €24,488 (to end-February) (of which €12,000 was charged to NAMA).

* In 2010 costs were not specifically attributed to NAMA. NAMA was charged a proportionate share of the NTMA’s third party service costs which included Gordon MRM.

  In the light of the sovereign debt crisis the NTMA also engaged Powerscourt – a London based communications consultancy – for international communications initiatives in the funding and debt management area. Total costs (excluding VAT) incurred for the provision of the services provided by Powerscourt were as follows:

2010 - €160,334

2011 - €74,395

2012 - €10,257

2013 - €12,103 (to end-February).


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