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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 135-150
 Header Item Residency Permits
 Header Item Road Traffic Legislation
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences
 Header Item Legal Aid Service
 Header Item Legal Aid Service Data
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme
 Header Item House Prices
 Header Item Universal Social Charge
 Header Item Tax Agreements
 Header Item Tax Credits
 Header Item IBRC Liquidation
 Header Item Tax Credits
 Header Item Insurance Industry Regulation
 Header Item Government Bonds

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 135-150

Residency Permits

 135. 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 position in respect of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18025/17]

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 the person concerned has been granted leave to remain in the State for the period to 20th January 2019. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 20 January 2016.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department 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 the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Road Traffic Legislation

 136. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald further to Leaders' Questions on 19 October 2016, Parliamentary Questions Nos. 74 of 2 November 2016 and 121 of 15 November 2016 (details supplied), if the report is available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18043/17]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Deputy will be aware that Section 33 of the Road Traffic Act 2016 amends section 22 of the 2002 Road Traffic Act to ensure that drivers convicted in court produce their driving licence so penalty points can be recorded on the driver file. The 2016 Act provides for a new requirement for the presiding judge to ask a driver convicted in court for a driving offence to produce his/her licence to the court. The court will then record the licence details, or the fact that it was not produced, with failure to produce a licence an offence. This provision will tighten up existing procedures to enable penalty points to be matched to driving licence records following conviction in court. I am informed by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, that Section 33 of the Act of 2016 will be commenced on 13 April 2017.

I can confirm that the report referenced by the Deputy was received in November 2016. The issue was the subject of discussions involving the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Courts Service, An Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions and legal advice was obtained in relation to the wording of the relevant summonses, which will reflect the revised legislative position following the commencement of Section 33 of the Act of 2016.

Road Traffic Offences

 137. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald to comment on the recent decision by a District Court judge to refuse to hear any motorist prosecution cases involving GoSafe speed detection vans as he stated it was a waste of time to try to prosecute motorists because of the poor system of delivering notices to people through the post. [18112/17]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As the Deputy will appreciate, judges are independent in matters concerning the exercise of judicial functions, subject only to the Constitution and the law. The conduct of and decision reached in any court case is a matter entirely for the presiding judge. Therefore, I cannot comment or intervene in any way on the conduct or decision of any individual case which is a matter entirely for the presiding judge.

I am aware of the recent decision referred to by the Deputy in his question. Inherent challenges will always exist in a system with a scope similar to the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS), however the high payment rate on receipt of Fixed Charge Notices (FCNs), which I am informed stands at around 70%, must be similarly acknowledged. At the same time, because of the reach of the FCPS, it is important to ensure that there are no loopholes that can be availed of and it is also vitally important that the operation of the FCPS has the confidence of the judiciary that interact with the system.

While the majority of FCNs are paid, consideration has been given to those who, for whatever reason, do not pay within the 56-day period, but do not wish to have their case proceed to Court. Arrangements for the commencement of Section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, which provides for the Third Payment Option, are underway in both my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. This section, once commenced, will provide a person who is served with a summons in respect of a fixed charge offence, the opportunity to pay a fixed charge, not later than 7 days before the date of the Court on which the charge is to be heard, and a FCN is included with the summons to this effect. If a person takes up the third payment option, proceedings in respect of the alleged offence will be discontinued and the person need not attend court. It is envisaged that this Third Payment Option will be implemented by the third quarter of 2017.

My Department jointly chairs the multi-agency Criminal Justice (FCPS) Working Group with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Working Group is charged with overseeing and facilitating the recommendations of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate's report on ‘The Fixed Charge Processing System – A 21st Century Strategy’ (February 2014). Some 22 of the 37 recommendations have been fully implemented to date, with 5 additional recommendations on track for delivery by Summer 2017. Work on the remaining recommendations is ongoing and the majority of these recommendations are medium-long-term in nature. The Working Group is scheduled to meet again later this month and I can assure the Deputy that the matters raised in relation to the issuing of FCNs will receive attention at this forthcoming meeting.

Legal Aid Service

 138. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will consider guaranteeing civil lawyers to persons undergoing disputes over their tracker mortgages in view of the fact these persons are at a disadvantage when it comes to paying for a lawyer after overpaying their mortgage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18216/17]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Government is committed to providing assistance to persons who find themselves in mortgage difficulties and as the Deputy may be aware, the Government last October launched Abhaile, the Free Mortgage Arrears Support Service. That service may be relevant to some home mortgage holders with tracker mortgage difficulties, though it does not provide legal advice or representation in tracker mortgage disputes specifically.

Abhaile offers free expert financial and legal advice and help to a person who is at risk of losing their home due to mortgage arrears, with the aim of identifying the best solution in their individual circumstances to resolve their mortgage arrears - and wherever possible, helping them to stay in their home. Help under Abhaile is available via MABS (the Money Advice and Budgeting Service), whose Helpline (076-1072000) and offices around the country can provide further information on the range of help available under Abhaile and can advise on eligibility. In general, a homeowner is eligible if they are unable to pay their debts as they fall due and are at risk of losing their home due to mortgage arrears.

Mortgage holders who qualify for Abhaile can avail, among other services, of a free face to face consultation with an expert financial adviser and/or a solicitor, and written financial and/or legal advice on solutions to their mortgage arrears.

In respect of the particular situation facing persons who may have been overcharged in relation to a tracker mortgage, it is open to persons who are unable to afford a solicitor to make an application for civil legal aid and advice from a Legal Aid Board law centre. The normal eligibility criteria will apply, details of which can be found on the Legal Aid Board's website www.legalaidboard.ie.

Legal Aid Service Data

 139. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of applications for free legal aid granted in each District Court and Circuit Court area in the past three years; and the cost of the scheme in each court area over this period. [18328/17]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The position in relation to applications under the Criminal Legal Aid Act 1962, as amended and the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995, is set out below.

  Criminal Legal Aid

  Under the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. An applicant for legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the court that their means are insufficient to enable them to pay for legal aid themselves. The 1962 Act specifies that the court must also be satisfied that, by reason of the "gravity of the charge" or "exceptional circumstances", it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. Criminal prosecutions originate in the District Court and if so satisfied, the Judge will grant a criminal legal aid certificate. The following table below provides the number of legal aid certificates issued by District Court area. Figures are not kept in such a way as to be able to provide a breakdown of the number of applications for free legal aid granted in the Circuit Court. Total expenditure on criminal legal aid for each of the past three years is as follows - 2014 - €49.890 million; 2015 - €50.879 million; 2016 - €52.998 million. It should be noted that some expenditure may relate to applications received in a previous year.

Court Area NameNo of Applications

2014
No of Applications

2015
No of Applications

2016
ABBEYFEALE1000
ACAILL156
AN CLOCHAN LIATH263319
AN DAINGEAN121835
AN FAL CARRACH253022
ARDEE9510394
ARKLOW239239252
ATHLONE337417511
ATHY152163173
BALLAGHADERREEN996373
BALLINA90124103
BALLINASLOE292255352
BALLYSHANNON716780
BANDON200232127
BANTRY10010579
BEAL AN MHUIRTHEAD451926
BRAY777812898
BUNCRANA829788
CAHIRCIVEEN272419
CARLOW679722727
CARNDONAGH595144
CARRICK ON SHANNON130146135
CARRICK ON SUIR1259896
CARRICKMACROSS370332343
CASHEL155150161
CASTLEBAR152141178
CASTLEREA231223266
CAVAN788724706
CILL RONAIN312
CLIFDEN272418
CLONAKILTY12510686
CLONMEL370367381
CORK CITY366240053835
DOIRE AN FHEICH442326
DONEGAL414645
DROGHEDA746817952
DUBLIN METROPOLITAN DISTRICT231752464126616
DUNDALK646757845
DUNGARVAN208219216
ENNIS144113891490
FERMOY284269288
GALWAY108811901124
GOREY604702702
GORT98117105
KENMARE163224
KILCOCK205175184
KILKENNY609801837
KILLALOE158138142
KILLARNEY216261198
KILLORGLIN526959
KILRUSH183257193
KINSALE200
LETTERKENNY584642671
LISMORE292727
LISTOWEL132167147
LONGFORD275327450
LOUGHREA122147225
MACROOM979055
MALLOW450493567
MANORHAMILTON131913
MIDLETON321340430
MONAGHAN401318371
MULLINGAR449385404
NA GLEANNTA261421
NAAS998899933
NAVAN906908222
NENAGH442576502
NEWCASTLE WEST262307327
PORTLAOISE704728773
ROSCOMMON113142189
SKIBBEREEN754452
SLIGO397406389
STROKESTOWN303525
THURLES346344351
TIPPERARY234228241
TRALEE576647583
TRIM243299114
TUAM129161205
TUBBERCURRY443737
TULLAMORE559512503
VIRGINIA362304274
WATERFORD CITY140413711395
WESTPORT383157
WEXFORD666817689
WICKLOW215284296
YOUGHAL1148998
Total Applications 511285393755617


  It should noted that both Abbeyfeale and Kinsale closed in 2014 hence there are no certificates issued in 2015 and 2016.

  Civil Legal Aid

  I am informed by the Legal Aid Board that they do not maintain data in relation to the particular District Court Area (including the Dublin Metropolitan District) or Circuit Court county in which the legal aid is to be provided. This is because such information is not required to be provided to the Board as part of an application for civil legal aid. Indeed it may be the case at the time of making an application for a legal aid certificate that a solicitor acting for an intended plaintiff may have yet to identify the correct court area in which proceedings should be taken. For similar reasons the Board cannot provide information in relation to the costs of providing services in each District Court Area or Circuit Court county.

  The following table provides the number of civil legal aid certificates granted to applicants in connection with intended proceedings in (a) the District Court and (b) the Circuit Court, in each of the last three years at each Legal Aid Board law centre. Also attached are the net costs (less contributions and costs recovered) of running each law centre in the years in question.

  These numbers do not include a substantial number of certificates issued out of the Board’s specialist service for family law matters at the Dublin District Court. That service issued 1,865 certificates in 2014, 1,795 certificates in 2015, and 1,724 certificates in 2016, all for matters in the District Court. They also do not include a much smaller number of legal aid certificates issued by the Board’s specialist units for medical negligence, personal injuries nor the costs of operating these units. Nor does it include certificates issued pursuant to the Abhaile scheme (in the second half of 2016).
 2014 District Court2014 Circuit Court2015 District Court2015 Circuit Court2016 District Court2016 Circuit Court2014 Net Costs €0002015 Net Costs €0002016 Net Costs €000
Athlone153841656013782570615683
Blanchardstown121062412625111767580601
Castlebar437079427564393452462
Cavan605575675744398396460
Clondalkin186468678667592569683
Cork Popes Quay2491062091122571441,0881,1331,206
Cork South Mall46891428147426821,1661,0421,146
Dundalk125701296710138404394406
Ennis17401897620361496499548
Finglas929259739124777588578
Galway Francis Street2048231153229146900920851
Galway Seville House582780686450022588
Jervis Street (previously Gardiner Street)401034112766929851,1581,455
Kilkenny247113254136246127632663850
Letterkenny27111326810524384518554611
Limerick24695286132355110509614648
Longford105631034514570471468585
Monaghan1311711207011188409581529
Navan3091002698425989485520520
Nenagh238832767629944619583582
Newbridge221159200140153109676699746
Portlaoise126741629720986488505602
Sligo106621086313158359412484
Smithfield4290439546742,8863,7654,138
Tallaght156814973075601610668
Tralee1806821610222365643638663
Tullamore847272398360398397411
Waterford176721876218671588589635
Wexford1704017075173575435721,031
Wicklow172851949019787627617629

Garda Data

 140. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of officers in each Garda division currently off work due to work-related stress or injury. [18329/17]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for carrying on and managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána.

  I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Commissioner and I will write to the Deputy on receipt of same.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A

  I refer to Parliamentary Question No. 140 for answer on 11 April 2017, the text of which was as follows:-

"To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of officers in each Garda division currently off work due to work-related stress or injury."

  At the time I responded that I would request the information sought by the Deputy from the Commissioner and I would write directly to you on receipt of same.

  As you will appreciate the Garda Commissioner is responsible for carrying on and managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána and I, as Minister have no direct role in the matter.

  I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that sickness absences are recorded on the Sickness Management Absence System under the following categories:

- Ordinary illness

- Occupational injury/illness arising from duty

- Critical illness.

I am further informed there is currently no specific sub-category on the Sickness Absence Management System for the recording of absences due to work related stress.

The following table provides the details on the number of members per Division who are availing of sick leave categorised as Occupational injury/illness arising from duty, which contains the sub categories outlined below as of 7th April 2017, the latest date for which figures are currently available.

  Occupational injury/illness arising from duty contains the following sub categories:

- Injury on Duty: Accident

- Injury on Duty: RTA

 - Malicious Injury Off Duty

 - Malicious Injury On Duty

 - Occupational illness arising from duty.

I hope this information is of assistance.

Number of members on occupational injury/illness arising from duty.

DivisionTotal
Cavan/Monaghan2
Clare2
Cork City6
Cork North4
DMR Eastern1
DMR North Central5
DMR Northern7
DMR South Central 5
DMR Southern3
DMR Western6
DMR Traffic Division 3
Donegal7
Galway5
Kerry7
Kildare1
Kilkenny/Carlow6
Laois/Offaly4
Limerick4
Louth4
Mayo5
Meath1
Operational Support Unit1
Roscommon/Longford10
Sligo/Leitrim9
Tipperary4
Waterford3
Westmeath3
Wexford2
Wicklow2
Total122
*As of 7 April 2017.

  Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 128.

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

 142. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if his attention has been drawn to fact that the waiting list for a primary medical certificate appeal is six to seven months; the efforts being taken to address this waiting list; if there is an option to seek review from the area medical office in cases where further medical evidence is available but was not considered by the area medical officer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17701/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am informed by the Medical Board of Appeal that as of March 2017, there are 278 appeals active at the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal.  There has been a recent upsurge in the number of appeals to the DDBMA. The DDBMA, within its functions, has the facility to deal with waiting lists by holding extra hearings.  I am aware that extra hearings were held in 2016 and already in 2017, in this regard. 

I am confident that the Board has the matter in hand but I will keep the matter under review.  I would point out that Regulation 6(1)(e) of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994 (S.I. 353 of 1994) provides that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Regarding the second part of the Deputy's question, the Senior Medical Officer for relevant local Health Service Executive administrative areas makes a professional clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant satisfies the medical criteria. A successful applicant is provided with a Primary Medical Certificate, which is required under the Regulations to claim the reliefs provided for in the Scheme.  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.  After six months, a citizen can reapply if there is a deterioration in their condition. 

House Prices

 143. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on whether the introduction of the help-to-buy scheme has contributed significantly to recent house price increases; his plans to review the scheme in view of these increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17465/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As the Deputy will be aware, the HTB incentive was initially announced on 19 July 2016 as part of 'Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness'. This plan contains a significant volume of responses to the current housing crisis, of which the HTB incentive is just one. The comprehensive Action Plan takes a holistic approach in addressing the many interacting structural constraints affecting the housing market in areas such as planning and land use, as well as regulation and skills deficits in the construction sector. While the primary focus of the Action Plan is to tackle structural constraints, fiscal supports can play a supporting and time-bound role in addressing the current problems in the housing sector.

It is in this context that the Help-to-Buy (HTB) scheme should be considered. Its role is to complement the other measures in the Action Plan. The extent to which the scheme could lead to an increase in residential property prices will very much depend on the speed and efficiency with which structural supply constraints are eliminated and residential building activity increases. Therefore, the impact of the HTB incentive on property prices should not be considered in isolation from the impact of other measures contained in the Action Plan, which are primarily designed to increase supply. In my view, it is the lack of supply that is primarily responsible for driving house prices higher and I would point out that increases in house prices prevailed long before the introduction of the Help to Buy incentive. I would also point out that the HTB is targeted towards new build homes only, and to first-time buyers only, and it would be simplistic to designate this incentive as being the sole or the major contributor to house price increases. Furthermore, the incentive is designed to help first-time buyers obtain the deposit required to facilitate the purchase of a home. Therefore it helps first-time buyers to meet the loan to value requirements of the Central Bank's macro-prudential rules. However, the loan to income requirements of those rules must also be satisfied and the HTB pays no role in relation to that aspect.

I wish to assure the Deputy that my Department continues to monitor developments in the property market including movements in property prices. In this regard, the Deputy may be aware that I have already committed to commissioning an independent economic impact assessment of the incentive which will look at, among other issues, its potential impact on property prices. The contract for this assessment, following the completion of a competitive tendering process, will be awarded shortly.

Universal Social Charge

 144. Deputy Declan Breathnach Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if his attention has been drawn to the fact there is an unfair anomaly for persons earning just over the universal social charge threshold amount of €13,000 whereby they are charged USC on the full amount, for example, 0.5% on the first €12,012 and 2.5% on the balance up to €18,772; his plans to change these rules for those persons on low incomes so the first €13,000 remains exempt from USC with any balance of income over that amount liable to USC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17481/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I understand that the Deputy is referring to the step effect which occurs when a taxpayer becomes liable to the Universal Social Charge.  Individuals with USC-liable income of less than €13,000 per annum are exempt from USC, but once that threshold is exceeded, USC is payable on all relevant income.

While step effects are never ideal, they are often a feature of tax systems with exemption thresholds, as the application of a tax on this basis allows those with incomes below the threshold to be supported by means of the exemption, while also achieving the required yield from the tax.  The Deputy may be aware that both the Income Levy and the Health Levy, which were replaced by the USC, also had step effects.  The Health Levy in particular had a significant step effect of €1,040 per annum, or €20 per week, when weekly earnings exceeded €500.

As the USC step occurs at a low income threshold and a low tax rate, its effect is much less significant than the steps of the two levies it replaced.  In 2016, the USC step was just under €150 annually, or €2.88 per week. The Deputy will be aware that in Budget 2017, I halved the rate of USC applying on the first €12,012 of income from 1% to 0.5%, and reduced the rate of USC on the next €6,760 of income from 3% to 2.5%.  Therefore Budget 2017 has further reduced the USC step to just under €85 annually, or €1.63 per week.

I would also point out that exempting the first €13,000 of income for USC for all taxpayers would have significant cost implications. It is estimated that the full-year cost of exempting the first €13,000 of income from USC for all taxpayers, with USC applying at current rates on amounts above €13,000, would be approximately €175 million.

The current Government has committed to continuing the process of phasing out the USC in future Budgets.  It is intended that this will occur as part of a wider medium-term income tax reform plan that keeps the tax base broad, reduces excessive tax rates for middle income earners and limits the benefits for high earners.  In this regard the Income Tax Reform Plan developed for consultation with the Oireachtas and published by my Department in July last year, may be of interest, and is available at the following link: www.finance.gov.ie/sites/default/files/Income%20Tax%20Reform%20Plan-FINAL_0.pdf.

Tax Agreements

 145. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if the Revenue Commissioners recently received information from the Netherlands authorities or another country regarding tax evasion through a bank (details supplied); if so, the volume and detail of the information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17557/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I have been advised by Revenue, that Ireland and the Netherlands regularly exchange tax information under the provisions of the Ireland-Netherlands Double Taxation Convention and Council Directive 2011/16/EU on Administrative Cooperation in the Field of Taxation.

The exchange of information carried out under these legal agreements is governed by strict confidentiality provisions and the details of any specific exchanges that have taken place between the Irish and Dutch tax authorities cannot be disclosed. As a result, it is not possible to provide any further details. 

Tax Credits

 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 cost of a 20% tax credit on expenditure incurred of up to €950 by taxpayers for Gaeltacht courses for their children for 1,000 applicants. [17596/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The estimated cost to the Exchequer of a 20% tax credit on expenditure incurred of €950 by taxpayers for Gaeltacht courses for their children for 1,000 applicants would be in the order of €190,000. This estimate assumes that all of the qualifying taxpayers pay €950 each per child and that they would have sufficient income to use the credit to the maximum extent.

IBRC Liquidation

 147. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the way customers that may be eligible for redress as part of the tracker mortgage review will be treated in terms of a hierarchy in the liquidation process with regard to the liquidation of IBRC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17660/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Special Liquidators that customers who are eligible for redress as part of the tracker mortgage review will be treated as unsecured creditors of IBRC in respect of any such amounts which are found to be due to them for the period beginning February 2007 up until the date of liquidation. Dividends will be paid to those affected in line with other creditor payments. Amounts due to customers for the period post appointment of the Special Liquidators will be treated as a cost of the liquidation and will be paid in full. At this stage, it is estimated that less than 100 customers will be impacted and require redress.

Tax Credits

 148. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the cost of reintroducing the one-parent family tax credit for parents who do not qualify for the single person child carer tax credit if they have overnight access to their children a minimum of two days per week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17737/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am informed by Revenue that there is no information available to Revenue on which to estimate a cost to the Exchequer for the reintroduction of the One-Parent Family Tax Credit (OPFTC) in the manner set out by the Deputy, as Revenue would not have the necessary information as to the access arrangements of single parents.

The Deputy will be aware that the OPFTC was replaced by the Single Person Child Carer Credit (SPCCC) with effect from 1 January 2014.  The SPCCC operates differently from the One-Parent Family Credit in that it is available in the first instance only to the Primary Claimant, who is the individual with whom the child resides for the whole or greater part of the year.  The Primary Claimant must be either the child's parent or the individual who has custody of the child and who maintains the child at his or her own expense for the whole or the greater part of the year.

The structure of the OPFTC allowed multiple credits to be claimed in respect of the same child. As I have pointed out before, it is essential to review all tax reliefs, credits and incentives periodically in order to ensure that they are properly targeted and, if necessary, re-focused in order that they can achieve the socio-economic objectives that are set for them. The OPFTC was reviewed by the 2009 Commission on Taxation, which acknowledged that the credit played a role in supporting and incentivising the labour market participation of single and widowed parents.  However in its recommendations the Commission concluded that the credit should be allocated to the primary carer only. The restructuring of the OPFTC into the SPCCC achieved such an outcome. I would also point out that there is no specific tax credit for children in the tax code, therefore married or cohabiting couples are unable to avail of any additional credit to assist them in the financial maintenance of their children. 

I am advised by Revenue that the OPFTC cost to the Exchequer in 2013, its final year, was €141.6 million in respect of 104,100 claimants. The SPCCC cost to the Exchequer in 2014, the latest year for which data are available, was €94 million in respect of 71,100 claimants.

The Deputy will be aware that it is possible for a qualifying Primary Claimant to surrender his or her entitlement to the credit in favour of a Secondary Claimant where the child resides with that Secondary Claimant for at least 100 days per year. It should be noted that a Secondary Claimant does not qualify for the SPCCC in his/her own right. Rather it is the primary carer of the child who is entitled to the credit subject to meeting the qualifying criteria and, should he/she choose, may subsequently surrender the credit to a Secondary Claimant who has care of the child for at least 100 days in a year.

Where the child's primary carer is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting they would not be entitled to the SPCCC, on the basis that the relevant child is not, in the main, being cared for by a single person, and therefore no credit is available to be relinquished to a Secondary Claimant.  However should the Secondary Claimant become the primary carer of the child in the future, he/she may be entitled to apply for the SPCCC in his/her own right. I am satisfied that the SPCCC in its current form is targeting limited resources to where they are most needed.

Insurance Industry Regulation

 149. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the requirements for operating an insurance company here; if there is a need to conform with a set of regulations laid down by the relevant Department; the penalties for not complying; if he has powers to invoke such and force a company to offer a certain type of insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18055/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan  As Minister for Finance, I have responsibility for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation in Ireland, including the regulatory environment for life and non-life insurance.  This legal and regulatory framework for the provision of life insurance, non-life insurance and reinsurance in the European Economic Area (EEA), and the supervision of that activity, is prescribed by EU Directives.  Insurance companies that operate in this jurisdiction must therefore operate under those requirements.

I have no role in day to day supervision of the insurance industry, as this is the responsibility of the Central Bank of Ireland.  In that regard, the Central Bank of Ireland has two specific mandates as regards insurance supervision.  Firstly, it is responsible for the prudential supervision of insurance companies it has authorised by seeking to ensure that such firms remain solvent.  It does this by continuously monitoring the solvency requirements of insurers which are underpinned by the European Union (Insurance and Reinsurance) Regulations 2015. These regulations transpose the EU Directive "Solvency II"  into Irish legislation. Secondly, the Central Bank of Ireland is responsible for the supervision of conduct of business in Ireland, also referred to as consumer protection. All insurance undertakings operating in Ireland, whether authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland or a competent authority of another EU state, are subject to conduct of business supervision by the Central Bank of Ireland. 

The Central Bank of Ireland operates an assertive risk based approach to supervision which is supported by a credible threat of enforcement. Its enforcement strategy is aimed at promoting principled and ethical behaviour in regulated entities and those that work in such entities.  The relevant enforcement tools including penalties for non-compliance are set out on the Central Bank of Ireland's website: www.centralbank.ie/regulation/how-we-regulate/enforcement.

Finally, with regard to your last point, neither I nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, as these matters are of a commercial nature, and are determined by insurance companies based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept.  This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance which expressly prohibits Member States from adopting rules which require insurance companies to obtain prior approval of the pricing or terms and conditions of insurance products.  The provision of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered is therefore a commercial matter for insurance companies.

Government Bonds

 150. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 40 of 4 April 2017, if he will issue a direction that bonds due to mature in 2019 and 2020 be bought back now and re issue longer term bonds in their place; if not, his reasons for not taking this measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18095/17]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I do not intend to issue a direction of this nature to the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) as I am confident that the NTMA is already pursuing the optimal strategy in its management of this debt.

While on the surface it may appear attractive to replace debt that was issued at a higher borrowing cost than the cost that applies to debt issued today, the reality is more complex and less attractive. When bond yields fall, the market value of debt issued at higher rates goes up. This means it would cost the NTMA more to buy that debt from the investors who hold it than the NTMA originally borrowed. Put simply, a holder of a bond that is paying an annual coupon of 5% will not exchange that bond for a lower coupon without charging a significant premium.

To buy back the bonds that are due to mature in 2019 and 2020 would require the NTMA to issue approximately 15 per cent more par debt. This would add to the existing stock of public debt, which is already elevated.

However, the NTMA has taken advantage of the opportunities presented by lower borrowing costs by actively lengthening the maturity of Ireland's debt and by pre-funding in advance of major redemptions.  Today, Ireland has one of the longest average maturities in Europe.

The NTMA has also built up a significant amount of cash as it has pre-funded ahead of its future obligations.  Cash balances were over €15 billion at end-March.

Along with the actions mentioned above the NTMA has accelerated the buyback of the Floating Rate Notes to lock in today's market rates which is effectively the NTMA taking out insurance against rates rising into the future.  In addition, it has executed bilateral switches redeeming early short-term bonds in exchange for longer-term bonds and reduced the bond refinancing requirement by over €2.5 billion.

The net impact of all NTMA actions, including the early repayment of loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been to reduce the size of the refinancing obligation out to end-2020 from €70 billion to close to €40 billion, when account is taken of Exchequer cash balances.


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