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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 65-85
 Header Item Roads Maintenance
 Header Item Aviation Policy
 Header Item Rail Network
 Header Item Greenways Provision
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Road Safety
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences
 Header Item National Vehicle and Driver File
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Help-To-Buy Scheme
 Header Item Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme
 Header Item Tax Data
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 65-85

Roads Maintenance

 65. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if Transport Infrastructure Ireland will provide funding to address subsidence on a national road at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24482/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and securing exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme.  Once funding arrangements have been put in place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the  maintenance, improvement and upgrading of individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.  This is also subject to the requirements of the Public Spending Code Guidelines and necessary statutory approvals.   In this context, TII is best placed to advise on the current status and funding available for these works.

  Noting the above position, I have referred your question, on this occasion, to TII for a direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Aviation Policy

 66. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will address a matter regarding the Aviation Recovery Plan 2020 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24491/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As recommended by the Taskforce for Aviation Recovery, the Government has already implemented a wide range of supports for the aviation sector. Chief among these include extending the wage subsidy scheme out to April 2021, alleviation of commercial rates, tax claw back, and the provision of liquidity support which is available to the sector through the Government’s €2 billion ISIF Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund.

 The Taskforce’s Final Report also contains a number of other recommendations relating to the provision of further support to the sector; including through stimulus funding to aid recovery. These recommendations are being considered, as appropriate, in the context of the ongoing work to manage the impact of Covid-19 on aviation and the wider economy.

On the matter of implementing EASA’s Guidelines on the return to normal operations following the pandemic, my Department has already published a National Code of Practice for Safe Air Travel. In addition and as indicated in the Government’s announcement of its medium term plan for living with Covid, it is the Government’s intention to opt in to EU plans for a colour-coded risk assessment proposal for European travel. 

Rail Network

 67. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan when Kishogue rail station will open resulting in a local train service for commuters in Lucan, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24527/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

  The issue raised is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply.

  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Greenways Provision

 68. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the funding avenues available or that will be made available to local authorities or community groups to assist in developing feasibility studies and or the design of new greenway projects; if a timeline will be provided in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24535/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Programme for Government includes a comitment to the development of an integrated national greenways strategy. This has the potential to transform modal shift, improve air quality and public health.This commitment to cycling will enable us to achieve the huge ambition of developing an integratednational network of greenways to be used by commuters, leisure cyclists and tourists. We will continue the coordinated approach between central government, local authorities and agencies to deliver on this ambition. 

My Department recently allocated €4.5m to a number of projects under the Carbon Tax Fund to assist local authorities and state agencies in bringing their projects through various stages including feasibility, design and planning. In the context of Budget 2021 and the National Economic Plan I will be looking at how we can support additional projects to deliver on the commitments in the Programme for Government.

Proposed Legislation

 69. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if work has taken place on a consolidation project of the Road Traffic Acts in view of the reassurances of his predecessors that such a project was underway; if so, the progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24622/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As the Deputy is aware, a commitment to consolidate existing Road Traffic legislation was included in Programme for Government agreed by the three Government parties in June of this year.

I must emphasise that such a project is not simply a matter of re-enacting all current legislation into a single instrument. Consolidation is a significant and complex undertaking, necessitating the close examination of each aspect of the legislation to see where it might require drafting improvement. Officials from my Department are current examining how best to progress the commitment in the Programme for Government, taking account of the ongoing needs to ensure that the provisions of road traffic legislation are fit for purpose and to meet our international and European obligations, as well as the current urgent needs to ensure our legislation is appropriate to the demands of the COVID19 pandemic and the upcoming end of the Brexit transition period.

Road Safety

 70. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if the review of speed limits has been completed; if so, if he will publish the findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24623/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The most recent speed limit guidelines were issued in March 2015 following a review by a speed limit review working group.  Local Authorities (in conjunction with TII in respect of National Roads) are able to amend and set Speed Limits as appropriate and in accordance with the Speed Limit Guidelines for different sections of the road network as required and adopt bye-laws under a reserved function. 

This is an on-going process for local authorities and it can require a review by local authorities when speed limit guidance is updated or when local authorities believe that safety can be improved by better matching certain speed limit zones to existing guidance/best practice. In this context the 2020 Programme for Government has commited to review and reduce speed limits, where appropriate, to address both road safety issues and carbon emissions, and ensure greater compliance.

Ireland’s road network is extensive and inconsistent, which means that a ‘one size fits all’ solution for Speed Limits for the 100,000 kilometer road network is not always possible and queries will arise.  My Department is currently developing a speed limit appeals process whereby a member of the public can query or appeal a speed limit to the local authority.  

  Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 61.

Road Traffic Offences

 72. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number of drivers disqualified in 2018, 2019 and between 1 January to 31 July 2020; the number who surrendered their licence to the RSA in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24625/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The tabular table below provides the data requested by the Deputy. 

Year  Number of Drivers with Court Disqualification Number of Driving Licences Surrendered Number of Drivers with Penalty Points Disqualification Number of Driving Licences Surrendered
2018 9,824 1,052 1,526  560
2019 10,594 999 1,755 668
2020

(31st July 2020)
4,828 444 1,009 320

  Questions Nos. 73 and 74 answered with Question No. 61.

Road Traffic Offences

 75. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if road traffic law has been amended making it an offence for a learner permit holder to drive on a motorway; the penalty for the offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24628/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan It is an offence for a learner driver to drive on a motorway.  There has been no recent amendment of the law in this regard.

Section 43 of the Roads Act 1993 empowers the Minister to prescribe in regulations who may have access to motorways.  Regulation 7(2)(a) of Roads Regulations 1994 (S.I. No. 119 of 1994), made under the 1993 Act powers, specifies that a driver of a vehicle accessing a motorway must hold a licence, i.e. a full driving licence and not a learner permit.  Failure to comply with regulations made under section 43 is an offence, and an offender is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €2,000. 

The reason why we prohibit learners from driving on motorways is a judgement that motorways are not an appropriate environment for such inexperienced and unqualified drivers.  It is therefore safer for them and for other road users for them not to have access to motorways.  I am aware that a different view is taken in some other jurisdictions, but this is a judgement call and I have no plans to change the Irish law in this respect. 

Road Traffic Offences

 76. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number of learner drivers disqualified in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020 having exceeded the maximum seven penalty points; the number that surrendered their permit in each year to the RSA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24629/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The details for the number of learner drivers disqualified having exceeded the maximum of seven penalty points in 2018, 2019 and to date 2020 and the number who subsequently surrendered their permit in each of the years is provided in the tabular table below.

Year  Number of Learner Drivers Disqualified Number of Learner Permits Surrendered
2018 404  167
2019  440  161
2020

(up to 14th September 2020)
290  58

National Vehicle and Driver File

 77. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan his plans to link the national vehicle file database to the driver file record database to enable gardaí that scan a vehicle’s registration number at the roadside to access not only the owner’s vehicle details but also the licence details of all drivers insured to drive that vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24631/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan My Department is currently working with An Garda Síochána to enable its handheld devices access real-time driver and vehicle data. Access to this data is subject to legal and data protection provision approval.

Such data transfers will not however be able to determine the drivers that are insured to drive a particular vehicle. This element is subject to the creation of a Motor Insurance database by the insurance industry itself, known as the Motor Third Party Liability (MTPL) Insurance database. The MTPL database will capture driver details, including driver number, when processing an insurance application. Any sharing of this data with AGS and my Department will however be subject to appropriate legislative and data protections provisions being put in place.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 78. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if it is planned to modify the employment wage subsidy scheme to give further assistance to the sectors dependent on foreign tourists to ensure their survival until international travel recommences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24543/20]

 82. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Zoom on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if the financial assessment of tourism businesses availing of the employment wage subsidy scheme will consider the entirety of income for 2020 rather than recent months; and if a distorted picture of their financial income year to date will be provided. [24509/20]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 82 together.

I am aware of the concerns that have been raised regarding the pace of recovery for some sectors of the economy and that it has been suggested that the application of some of the new State supports should be delineated on the basis of explicit sectoral qualification criteria.

However, I would note that the reality of COVID-19 is that our whole economy and labour market have been rapidly transformed by this unprecedented shock and nearly all sectors have been negatively impacted either directly or indirectly.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) has therefore been deliberately designed as an economy wide measure that is open to all sectors as was the case for the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) before it.

The EWSS is designed to maintain the link between employees and employers and a number of flexible elements have been introduced in the EWSS that have particular benefit to the tourism sector raised by the Deputies. For example, it includes employees that were not previously eligible for the TWSS, such as seasonal workers and new hires, and applications for such workers under the EWSS may be backdated to 1 July 2020.

Many of the strictest public health restrictions on the economy have been eased and it is expected that businesses are able to shoulder more of the economic burden of their businesses, so it is appropriate that the level of State subsidy be moderated.  At the same time, it is recognised that economic outputs are unlikely to return to normal for many businesses for much of the rest of 2020, which is why the Government remains committed to supporting employers by means of a wage subsidy.  

I am advised by Revenue that, as of 15 September 2020, there were 33,348 employers registered for the EWSS which is considered a strong level of participation so far and, notably, proportionately more than half of all those who availed of the TWSS over the whole duration of that scheme. As a result, there are no plans at present to re-visit the core eligibility criteria for the EWSS.  However, I can confirm to the Deputies that the operation of the EWSS and its effectiveness will be kept under close review over the coming months. In fact, the relevant legislation obliges me to monitor and superintend the administration of the scheme and empowers me to make certain adjustments across the whole scheme where I determine that these are necessary. 

For those businesses who need further support, there are a number of options open to them – including State backed loans which may be repaid using EWSS funds as well as grants.  Particular attention is drawn to the comprehensive package of business and employer supports that have been made available as part of the July Stimulus Plan - including  the Credit Guarantee Scheme, the SBCI Working Capital Scheme, Sustaining Enterprise Fund, and the Covid-19 Business Loans Scheme. 

Help-To-Buy Scheme

 79. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe his plans to continue the temporary help-to-buy extension beyond 31 December 2020. [24595/20]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Help to Buy incentive (HTB) is a scheme to assist first-time purchasers with a deposit they need to buy or build a new house or apartment.  The incentive gives a refund on Income Tax and Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) paid in the State over the previous four years, subject to limits outlined in the legislation.

The enhanced level of support under the scheme, which was announced as part of the July Stimulus Package, applies to applicants who, on or after 23 July 2020 (and up to 31 December 2020), enter into a contract for the purchase of a new house or who make the first draw down of the mortgage in the case of a self-build.  The purpose of the measure was to stimulate demand from first-time buyers for new houses in the housing market and to encourage house completions. 

With less than four weeks to go to 13 October, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on what may or may not be contained in Budget 2021. 

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

 80. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Zoom on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if amendments to the existing legislation, Disabled Drivers Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, will be introduced to widen the eligible criteria as requested by the Office of the Ombudsman in order that more disabled persons can avail of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24478/20]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I have been advised that a Supreme Court decision of 18th June found in favour of two appellants against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal’s refusal to grant the individuals Primary Medical Certificates (PMC). My officials are currently examining the judgement, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, and will bring forward any policy and/or legislative proposals, as necessary, for my consideration in due course.

Tax Data

 81. Deputy Chris Andrews Information on Chris Andrews Zoom on Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the revenue raised by the sugar sweetened drinks tax from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019.  [24487/20]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I am advised by Revenue that the amount received in respect of Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019 is €33 million. This information is published on the Revenue website at the following link:

  https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/excise/receipts-volume-and-price/excise-receipts-commodity.aspx.

  Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 78.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 83. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the estimated cost of amending the employment wage subsidy scheme by categories (details supplied) for those with turnover of 50% to 75% compared to reference periods under the scheme to the end of December 2020, 1 January to 31 March 2021 and 1 April to 31 December 2021. [24518/20]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe As regards the Deputy’s question, the existing cost estimate for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) as set out below is based on the scheme being implemented in its totality as currently configured.

  It is not possible at the present time to provide a reliable estimate of the cost impact of alterations to individual elements of the scheme (such as the rates and qualifying criteria).   However, once Revenue has received EWSS returns relating to September, and there is a base to benchmark a cost estimate of the elements suggested by the Deputy, the question may be revisited.

  The existing cost estimate for the scheme is an additional €2.25billion.  This is comprised of €1.35bn until the end of 2020 and €0.9bn in 2021.

  These costs are on the basis that the EWSS will support around 350,000 jobs into the beginning of 2021. Revenue have estimated that 360,000 workers were supported by the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) when it concluded at the end of August, so this expected level of coverage of EWSS is considered to be a reasonable assumption. 

  However, the cost of the EWSS will depend on the overall uptake of the scheme which will become fully apparent after the first claims have been processed in October 2020.  I am advised by Revenue that, as of 15 September 2020, there were 33,348 employers registered for the EWSS which is considered a strong level of participation being proportionately more than half of all those who availed of the TWSS over the duration of that scheme.

  It is emphasised that these cost projections are subject to review and for every additional 50,000 qualifying employments over the duration of the scheme, the cost is estimated to increase by €0.25 billion. 

  As the scheme is demand led I have been clear that a significant increase in the number of claims may require a policy review and re-evaluation of the terms of the scheme.

  This is why the enacting legislation (Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Act 2020) provides that adjustments may be made to certain elements of the scheme. Following monitoring and regular assessments of the EWSS, such adjustments may be made by the Minister for Finance via secondary legislation, having consulted with my colleagues the Minister for Social Protection and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The specific elements (set out in subsection 21 of the Act) are:

  - the end date of the measure;

  - the rate of subsidy and applicable income threshold per employee; and

  - the turnover test to determine qualifying employers.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 84. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the number of employees with gross weekly pay of less than €151.50 who received payments under the temporary wage subsidy scheme since the beginning of its operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24519/20]

 85. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the number of employees with gross weekly pay of less than €151.50 who received payments under the temporary wage subsidy scheme in August 2020. [24520/20]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 85 together.

Revenue has advised me that it cannot accurately provide the numbers of employee recipients of the TWSS by their level of gross weekly pay due to the required format used by employers when filing (employee) payslips. For example, gross pay was required to be reported as €0.01 where the employer did not make an additional ‘top-up’ payment to the employee. Where the employer made an additional payment to an employee, this ‘top-up’ amount was required to be reported as gross pay. Therefore, for most TWSS employees their gross pay as reported to Revenue for the duration of the scheme reflected their ‘top-up’ payment only (over 80% received ‘top-up’ payments) and not their actual weekly pay, inclusive of the TWSS.

Revenue has analysed the numbers of TWSS recipients where the sum of gross weekly pay (€0.01 or the ‘top- up’ amount) plus the net subsidy amount was less than €151.50. This analysis suggests there may be around 20,000 such employees, with approximately 5,000 of these having exited the TWSS by the end of the scheme.  However, given the issues noted above, this should be considered highly provisional and be very likely subject to revision.


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