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Cabinet Committee Meetings

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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Cabinet Committee Meetings

 8. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a meeting of Cabinet committee D, infrastructure, which deals with climate change was held on 31 January 2019. [6295/19]

 9. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when Cabinet committee D, infrastructure, last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [7984/19]

 10. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when Cabinet committee D, infrastructure, last met; and when it will meet again. [8084/19]

 11. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if Cabinet committee D, infrastructure, met on 31 January 2019. [8225/19]

 12. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when the Cabinet committee D, infrastructure, will next meet. [8379/19]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 to 12, inclusive, together.

Cabinet committee D works to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the delivery and ongoing development of policy on infrastructure investment and delivery, housing and climate action. The committee last met on 31 January and the date for the next meeting is to be scheduled.

Significant work is under way across each of the areas covered by the committee through Government Departments and agencies and a range of interdepartmental groups such as the climate action high level steering group and the Project Ireland 2040 delivery board. In addition, these matters are regularly considered at meetings of Government and in bilateral meetings with the Ministers responsible for the issues.

Significant progress is being made on the implementation and delivery of Project Ireland 2040. Through the National Planning Framework, it sets out our strategic 20-year vision for Ireland’s future, balancing rural and urban development and linking it with capital investment of €116 billion over ten years to meet the infrastructural needs of our growing population. The four funds launched under Project Ireland 2040 have a total of €4 billion to invest across the areas of rural and urban regeneration and development, climate action and disruptive technologies innovation. The first round of funding allocations under these funds, amounting to €276 million, was announced last year. These funds will leverage further private sector investment in innovative and targeted projects that deliver on the aims of Project Ireland 2040.

The Land Development Agency, another cornerstone initiative of Project Ireland 2040, was established on an interim basis in September and is working to ensure the optimum management of State land through strategic development and regeneration with an immediate focus on providing new homes, including social and affordable housing. Housing continues to be a priority for the Government and we have seen strong growth in housing completions and in leading indicators such as planning permissions, commencement notices and housing registration. Last year, over 18,000 new homes were built, an increase of 25% on the previous year. More than 2,500 homes were brought out of long-term vacancy and almost 800 dwellings in unfinished estates were completed, meaning the number of new homes available for use increased by more than 21,000 last year. This does not include student accommodation. There was also strong delivery of publicly-funded social housing in 2018, with over 27,000 new households having their housing needs met.

We are aware of the significant challenge in meeting housing demand and tackling the ongoing issues in the housing market. For this reason, budget 2019 provided an increase of 25% in the housing budget. Delivering on our EU climate commitments for 2030 and transitioning to a competitive, low carbon, sustainable economy by 2050 are also policies. We are investing €22 billion in climate action through the national development plan to ensure that our future growth is regionally balanced and environmentally sustainable. Budget 2019 provided for a range of measures to lower carbon emissions and improve sustainability, including more than €200 million for agri-environmental actions through the rural development programme and over €164 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, is currently preparing an all-of-Government action plan on climate disruption and is working with colleagues across Government to develop new initiatives across electricity, transport, agriculture and other relevant sectors. The action plan will build on progress to date and set out the steps which must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yesterday, the Taoiseach said that Deputies should go and look at the updates on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's website if we want to know what is happening with national development plan, NDP, projects. He said we would find up to the minute figures on the status and cost of all major projects. Unsurprisingly, this turns out not to be true. The only underspends noted on the site arise because some projects spent money before the start of the NDP but the Taoiseach wanted to claim that the full project cost was part of the NDP. Some others have money from other sources such as the European Investment Bank and the Taoiseach wanted to include other people's contributions as part of the Government's advertising. The spreadsheet is a very good reminder of how many of the advertised projects are not planned and will not begin during the life of this Dáil, the next Dáil and probably the one after that.

The more serious point is that, as suspected, nothing has been done to address the significant overspend on the national children's hospital. The spreadsheet projects the overall cost of the project to be €916 million. No alteration has been made to the costings of other major health capital projects. If the health construction inflation, new safety rules and technology requirements which hit the national children's hospital happen for the other projects, since most of these costs will apply, it could undermine the ability to deliver at least 1,000 acute hospital beds. The Taoiseach said the public has a right to know about these projects so surely it has a right to have updates of information which was advertised last year. When will the Taoiseach update the claims he made about what will be delivered under the health provisions of the NDP? When will he outline the impact of the NDP projects on our carbon footprint? When will calculations be made of how it contributes to or detracts from climate change objectives?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Project Ireland 2040 recognises the importance of cross-Border co-operation and investment in developing the Border corridor, specifically the Donegal and Derry region. Derry and Strabane District Council has in place an ambitious, inclusive strategic growth plan and, as part of the plan, the council is trying to secure a city deal for the region from the British Government. Its plan also envisages financial contributions from the Taoiseach's Government and the European Union for a number of key strategic projects that would benefit the entire north-west region. We are talking about vital projects that will help to unlock the economic potential of Derry and Donegal, such as the expansion of Magee university and the development of the Greencastle cruise berth. This is about putting meat on the bones of the very welcome inclusion of the north west in Project Ireland 2040. Will the Taoiseach indicate if discussions in this regard are taking place in Departments and, if so, what stage are those discussions at?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton With the omnishambles of the children's hospital that the Taoiseach and Minister for Health are presiding over, will the Taoiseach tell us how we get a list of the reprofiled projects and spending as a consequence of the savings that he acknowledged have to be made? He brushed them aside by saying it is a mere €100 million. What is €100 million between friends? It is a lot of money and we have not yet seen a list and full-time schedule of these reprofiled amounts. I and everybody else knows that €20 million delayed now will be carried from this year to next year and climb as time passes. The Government has no control over public expenditure. The Taoiseach inherited a very good situation from the previous, outgoing Government and the current Government is like people in charge of a runaway train. Will the Taoiseach tell us what will happen with the National Maternity Hospital? That is only €300 million if we can believe that. What is happening with that? I have no idea. What is happening with the Coombe women's hospital? People would just like a hospital fit for modern purposes and we have no idea what is happening. Will the Taoiseach give us information on really important projects in the life of this country?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I will take up the same theme. In light of the children's hospital debacle, have all major capital programmes been reprofiled so that we can have a real, verifiable costing for the major projects, some of which have been outlined by my colleague, Deputy Burton? They have all been set out to be done. Will these be delivered and can we afford to continue with all of them? I will make one point as somebody who was responsible for public spending for five years about the notion that one can save €100 million this year without saving any money. If one has to save €100 million in cash, that is €100 million that one cannot spend. Some €100 million extra is going to the children's hospital. Last week, the Taoiseach told me that he does not need the Revised Estimates at all and can vire money. Since then, wiser counsel has prevailed and Revised Estimates will be presented today.

Some €65 million in additional money is being added to the Department of Health's capital programme to meet the €100 million requirement and it has to find €35 million itself. We can use words such as reprofiling but this involves real cash savings. It is reasonable for us to ask what projects will deliver the €35 million in cash in the Department of Health in 2019. What projects will deliver the €65 million being transferred into the Department of Health from other Departments?

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