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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 129-143
 Header Item Residency Permits
 Header Item Naturalisation Eligibility
 Header Item Insolvency Service of Ireland Data
 Header Item Insurance Costs
 Header Item Mortgage Lending
 Header Item Insurance Costs
 Header Item Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme
 Header Item Tax Exemptions
 Header Item Insurance Coverage
 Header Item Mortgage Data
 Header Item Loan Books Purchasers
 Header Item Mortgage Data
 Header Item Mortgage Data
 Header Item Property Ownership

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 911 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 60 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 129-143

Residency Permits

 129. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the status in respect of residency status and eligibility for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14191/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the persons referred to by the Deputy both hold refugee status in this State.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. Detailed information on Irish citizenship and naturalisation is available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie. The website also contains an on-line naturalisation residency calculator which individuals may find of assistance in establishing if the residency requirements are met.

The Deputy may wish to note that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been established specifically for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Eligibility

 130. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the status in determining the eligibility for naturalisation of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14199/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that there is no current application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy. A previous application was refused for reasons provided to the person concerned in a letter issued on 1 May 2013 advising of the decision.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended. Detailed information on Irish citizenship and naturalisation is available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie. The website also contains an on-line naturalisation residency calculator which individuals may find of assistance in establishing if the residency requirements are met.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Insolvency Service of Ireland Data

 131. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the administrative cost of running the Insolvency Service of Ireland, ISI, in 2015; the fees received by the ISI in 2014 and 2015, the number of cases completed, by category; the budget allocated to the ISI for 2016; the staff it employs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14228/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I can inform the Deputy that the administrative cost of running the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) in 2015 was €7,914,000. The total staff currently employed by the ISI is 69 full time equivalents.

The total fees received by the ISI in 2014 were €615,000 and in 2015 were €654,000. The budget allocated to the ISI for 2016 is €7,317,000.

The 2016 Q1 Statistical Report published by the ISI indicated that the number of insolvency arrangements approved to the end of the first Quarter of 2016 is 2,057. This figure comprises 669 Debt Relief Notices, 379 Debt Settlement Arrangements and 1,009 Personal Insolvency Arrangements.

In addition, the Government will shortly launch a new Government-funded Scheme to help people who are insolvent, and in mortgage arrears on their home, to access independent expert financial and legal advice. This will include free consultations with Personal Insolvency Practitioners.

Insurance Costs

 132. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding a driving licence exchange; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14015/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation.  The ability of the Government to influence insurance pricing is limited as insurance companies are required under European law to price in accordance with risk and neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, have the power to direct insurance companies on the pricing or the provision of insurance products.

The EU framework for insurance expressly prohibits Member States adopting rules which require the prior approval or systematic notification of certain matters, including general and special policy conditions and scales of premiums.  Furthermore, the EU framework provides non-life insurers with the freedom to set premiums.

Insurance companies consider a number of risks when determining the premium for a proposed insurance policy, whether that is a general insurance policy such as motor or home insurance, or a life assurance policy.  A premium is based on the actuarial calculation of risk.

Insurance Ireland has informed me that motor insurers make their own individual decisions on whether to offer cover and what terms to apply.  They use a combination of rating factors in doing this, such as the age of the driver, the type of car, claims record, driving experience, number of drivers, how the car is used, etc.  Insurers do not all use the same combination of rating factors, prices vary across the market and consumers are free to choose. 

In the event that a person is unable to obtain a quotation for motor insurance or feels that the premium proposed or the terms are so excessive that it amounts to a refusal to give them motor insurance, they should contact Insurance Ireland (telephone 01 6761820) quoting the Declined Cases Agreement. Under this Agreement, the Declined Cases Committee of Insurance Ireland deals with cases of difficulty in obtaining motor insurance.

Mortgage Lending

 133. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his further contacts with the Governor of the Central Bank regarding guidelines on mortgages for first-time buyers given the onerous nature of these guidelines for families urgently needing to purchase a home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14072/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Both I and my Department maintain close and on-going contacts with the Governor and the staff of the Central Bank regarding all matters of mutual interest.  

In relation to the up-coming review of the macro prudential measurers for residential mortgage lending, the Central Bank has informed me that this will take place later this year with publication expected in November. The Central Bank has indicated that, while the general framework of mortgage rules is intended to be a permanent feature, arising from this forthcoming review the calibration of these rules can be tightened, loosened or left unchanged in response to its analysis of the operation of these rules from inception through summer 2016. However, it has cautioned that, given the value of a stable rules-based system, any changes to the existing measures will require a high evidence threshold.  As part of the review process, the Central Bank has indicated that it will invite written public submissions that provide evidence-based analyses of the impact of the rules and that details on this process will be provided in advance of the submission period.  The macro prudential regulations were put in place under the provisions of section 48 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 and that Act requires the Central Bank to formally consult with me, as Minister for Finance, on any new regulation it proposes to put in place under that section including in relation to the mortgage lending macro prudential measures.

Insurance Costs

 134. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on the increase in motor insurance costs; his plans to assist in reducing these costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14073/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As Minister for Finance, I am concerned that there should be a stable insurance sector and that risks to policyholders and to the wider financial system are limited.  I am aware that the increasing cost of motor insurance has become an issue for a large number of households and businesses.  However, the ability of the Government to influence insurance pricing is limited as insurance companies are required under European law to price in accordance with risk and neither I, as Minister for Finance, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, have the power to direct insurance companies on the pricing of insurance products. 

While the provision and the pricing of insurance policies is a commercial matter for insurance companies, this does not preclude the Government from introducing measures that may, in the longer term, lead to a better claims environment that could facilitate a reduction in claims costs.

The question of the cost of insurance is a complex one involving a number of Government Departments, State Bodies and private sector organisations.  I have asked my officials to examine the factors which contribute to increasing costs of insurance.  This work is part of an overall review of policy in the insurance sector which my Department is carrying out in consultation with the Central Bank and other Departments, Agencies and external stakeholders.  The objective of the Review is to recommend measures to improve the functioning and regulation of the insurance sector. 

The first phase of the Review is dealing with the motor insurance compensation framework and this work is nearing completion.  The next phase of the Review will deal with the issue of insurance costs and it will include an examination of the factors contributing to the current rise in insurance premiums. 

The Review of Policy in the Insurance Sector will continue over the coming months.  

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

 135. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan why primary medical certificate appeals for tax relief for disabled drivers are not held on a regional basis, given the unfairness of having persons with severe disabilities travelling to County Dublin for appeal hearings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14079/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy is aware, a Primary Medical Certificate is required to claim the tax reliefs provided under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme.  The Senior Medical Officer for the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area makes a professional clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant satisfies the medical criteria to receive a Primary Medical Certificate. An unsuccessful applicant can appeal the decision of the Senior Medical Officer to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, which makes a new clinical determination in respect of the individual.

Hearings of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal are held on average twice a month at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, which has the facilities to cater for people with mobility impairing disabilities of the kind provided for under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme.

The Medical Board of Appeal holds regional clinics as demand arises. I'm informed that one clinic per year, for the past four years, has been held in Cork City. A regional clinic is scheduled for September this year in the Mercy University Hospital, Cork City.   

Regulation 6(1)(e) of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concession) Regulations 1994 (S.I. 353 of 1994) mandates that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions. 

Tax Exemptions

 136. Deputy Michael D'Arcy Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if the 40% tax break on land lease applies to a lease for a renewable solar energy resource. [14087/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I understand that the Deputy's question refers to the income tax exemption available under section 664 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA) in respect of certain income derived by lessors from the leasing of farm land. The relief is available, subject to a maximum limit, where farm land is leased to a qualifying lessee for a period of 5 years or more. Farm land is defined for the purposes of the relief and includes land in the State which is wholly or mainly occupied for the purpose of husbandry. The farm land must be used by the lessee for the purpose of a trade of farming on the land.

  It is considered that land which is leased for the production of renewable energy (such as the installation of solar panels on the land) does not qualify as farm land for the purpose of section 664 relief. In addition, the installation of renewable energy equipment and the activities associated with the generation of renewable energy would not be regarded as a trade of farming for the purpose of the exemption. Therefore, in general, leases of land for the production of renewal energy will not be eligible for the relief. The Revenue Commissioners have published a recent eBrief which specifically clarifies the application of section 664 TCA in respect of leases to solar energy development companies. The eBrief can be accessed on Revenue's website at  http://www.revenue.ie/en/practitioner/ebrief/2016/no-532016.html.

Insurance Coverage

 137. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will address the issue of persons visiting Ireland with Australian and international drivers' licences being unable to acquire affordable motor insurance cover on their own privately owned vehicles with motor insurance companies and the Insurance Federation of Ireland; if this is preventing persons from returning and spending part of the year in Ireland with the subsequent economic spin-off; if insurance companies are prohibited from extending such affordable cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14098/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation.  

Insurance companies are not prohibited from extending insurance cover in cases where motorists have an Australian or International Driver's Licence.  However, the provision of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered is a commercial matter for insurance companies and is based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept and adequate provisioning to meet those risks.  These are considered by insurance companies on a case by case basis. 

Insurance Ireland has informed me that motor insurers, in making decisions on whether to offer cover and what terms to apply, use a combination of rating factors such as the age of the driver, the type of car, claims record, driving experience, number of drivers, how the car is used, etc.  Insurers do not all use the same combination of rating factors, prices vary across the market, and consumers are free to choose.  Insurance Ireland has further stated that if the individual can produce confirmation that they were continually insured and are claims free in their own name while they were away, this would be taken into consideration when re-applying for insurance.

Insurance Ireland operates a free Insurance Information Service for those who have queries, complaints or difficulties in relation to obtaining insurance. In the event that a person is unable to obtain a quotation for motor insurance or feels that the premium proposed or the terms are so excessive that it amounts to a refusal to give them motor insurance, they should contact Insurance Ireland, 5 Harbourmaster Place, IFSC, Dublin 1, Telephone +353 1 6761820 quoting the Declined Cases Agreement.

My Department is conducting an overall review of policy in the insurance sector in consultation with the Central Bank and other Departments, Agencies and external stakeholders.  The objective of the Review is to recommend measures to improve the functioning and regulation of the insurance sector.  

Mortgage Data

 138. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the entitlement to, and how a borrower may obtain a copy of, the full loan file documentation, including the original loan application and the underwriting process, in respect of personal loans and commercial loans; if the entitlement of the borrower is different if the owner of the loan is or is not a regulated entity; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14145/16]

 140. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if the restructuring of residential and buy-to-let mortgage loans and commercial loans is legally binding on the new owner of the loan where the loan was restructured by agreement between the borrower and the original lender prior to its sale to the new owner; and if there is a distinction between new owners who are regulated entities and those who are not. [14147/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 140 together.

The Central Bank has confirmed to me that it does not have a remit in regard to access to records. 

Access rights under the Data Protection legislation are a matter for my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality.

As I have previously said, the sale of a loan from one entity to another does not change the terms of the contract or the borrower's rights and obligations under the original contract. Any right of access under the Data Protection legislation would not be impacted by the regulatory status of the owner.

Where a loan has been restructured prior to the sale and a new contract is in place, it is this new loan contract which is sold and the rights and obligations of the borrower under the contract are not changed by the sale. 

The Deputy will be aware that the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act, 2015 was enacted on 8 July 2015. It was introduced to fill the consumer protection gap where loans were sold by the original lender to an unregulated firm. The 2015 Act introduced a regulatory regime for a new type of entity called a 'credit servicing firm'. Credit Servicing Firms are now subject to the provisions of Irish financial services law that apply to 'regulated financial service providers'. This ensures that relevant borrowers, whose loans are sold to third parties, maintain the same regulatory protections they had prior to the sale, including under the various statutory codes (such as the Consumer Protection Code, Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, Code of Conduct for Business Lending to Small and Medium Enterprises and the Minimum Competency Code) issued by the Central Bank of Ireland and the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (Section 48) (Lending to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) Regulations 2015 which comes into operation on 1 July 2016.

Loan Books Purchasers

 139. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will consider requiring the new owner of a loan to inform the borrower of the price the new owner paid for the loan and the portfolio of which the loan forms part, in cases where loans have been sold on by the original lender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14146/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The sale of a loan from one entity to another does not change the terms of the contract or the borrower's rights and obligations under the original contract.

  The amount outstanding on the loan is not changed.

  Generally speaking, the price paid for a portfolio to which a loan belongs is a matter of considerable commercial sensitivity and is not revealed in a manner which would allow the identification of the price paid for the individual loan.

  Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 138.

Mortgage Data

 141. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the protections available to a residential mortgage holder whose loan is owned by a regulated entity which are not available where the loan is owned by a non-regulated entity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14148/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am not aware of any protections that a residential mortgage holder has where their loan is owned by a regulated entity which would not be available where the loan is owned by a non-regulated entity.

The Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act, 2015 was introduced to fill the consumer protection gap where loans were sold by the original lender to an unregulated firm. The 2015 Act introduced a regulatory regime for a new type of entity called a 'credit servicing firm'. Credit Servicing Firms are now subject to the provisions of Irish financial services law that apply to 'regulated financial service providers'. This ensures that relevant borrowers, whose loans are sold to third parties, maintain the same regulatory protections they had prior to the sale, including under the various statutory codes.

Mortgage Data

 142. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of residential mortgages owned by non-bank lenders, by institution, by regulated entity, by non-regulated entity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14149/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I have been informed by the Central Bank of Ireland that, for confidentiality reasons, it is not in a position to provide this information by institution.

  The Deputy will be aware from my reply to his question 13438 earlier this week that the total number of mortgage accounts owned by non-banks for Principal Dwelling House and Buy to Let combined was 47,402 at end-2015.

Property Ownership

 143. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the number of vacant residential properties owned by private citizens, banks, non-bank lenders, the National Asset Management Agency, in receivership, and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14150/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Central Bank publishes Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossessions Statistics on a quarterly basis, however, neither the Bank nor my Department collate data on all vacant properties categorised by the requested cohorts.

The Deputy will be aware that NAMA does not own residential property. Rather NAMA has acquired loans and its role is that of a lender with claims over security for its loans rather than a property owner or lessor. In that capacity, NAMA holds security over properties that are owned by its debtors or, in the case of enforcement, which are managed on behalf of those debtors by duly appointed insolvency practitioners. I am advised that there are approximately 6,000 completed residential properties over which NAMA holds security in relation to its loan portfolio, 99% of which are occupied.  The other 1% is frictional vacancy due to tenants relocating as leases roll over and expire.


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