Question 120: To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if it is possible for a constituent who has dual citizenship in Ireland and Australia, holds a full driving licence in both countries and commutes regularly between both countries to renew their Irish driving licence without surrendering their Australian driving licence; his plans to review this in view of the higher insurance and car rental costs involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8070/11]
Leo Varadkar:(Minister, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
Under the Road Traffic (Recognition of Foreign Driving Licences) Order 2007 (SI No. 527 of 2007) Ireland has arrangements for recognition and exchange of driving licences from a number of other jurisdictions, including Australia. It is an accepted principle of these arrangements that a person should not hold two driving licences at the same time. In consequence it is a principle that, where an exchange arrangement is in place, one should hand in the “old” licence to get the licence in the exchange country. When a person comes back to Ireland his/her licence renewal application form will ask if he/she has a licence from another country and, where it is from a country with which we have an exchange arrangement, such as Australia, this must be submitted with the application form for the Irish licence. There are no plans to change this arrangement.
Question 40: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his priorities in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7709/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 41 together.
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the fisheries policy of the European Union, which was first put in place in 1983 and has been subject to reviews every 10 years. The most recent review in 2002 and the next is formally scheduled for 2012. The European Commission published a Green Paper on the latest reform of the CFP in April 2009 in order to launch a consultation with member states and stakeholders and to initiate a broad public debate on the future CFP reform. An extensive nationwide public consultation process was conducted under the chairmanship of Dr. Noel Cawley. These consultations with all stakeholders contributed to the paper Ireland’s Response to the Commission’s Green Paper, which was submitted to the Commission early in 2010.
I have examined this submission and have met and discussed the priorities for reform with fishing industry representatives. I fully endorse the priorities for change set down in Ireland’s response on the CFP reform. The reforms we are seeking reflect a pragmatic approach involving changes that collectively take account of economic, social, environmental and sustainability factors.
The priorities I will focus on are:
- retention of the Hague Preferences;
- a new focus on addressing the discarding of fish at sea, with a complete ban being introduced for stocks in a depleted state;
- the retention of a management system based on national quotas, supported by increased flexibility and a rejection of the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas or the introduction of international trading of fish quotas;
- new measures to strengthen the market for EU producers and increase quayside prices;
- reinvigoration of European aquaculture, with continued structural support and a roadmap that establishes a route for growth in harmony with Community environmental law;
- a new regional structure to decision-making at EU level, with increased industry responsibility and the development of a culture of compliance;
In the current economic climate, we need a policy that both simplifies and reduces the administrative burden while at the same time strengthening and supporting the industry’s capacity to maximise employment in coastal communities dependent on fishing. In particular, I will be pursuing initiatives that will deliver and sustain jobs in coastal communities rather than those that promote the concentration of wealth and delivery of excessive profits for a few big international businesses. I support a system that maintains strong economic links between national quotas and traditional fishing communities, which these quotas were allocated to assist. This will be a key area for Ireland in the ongoing discussions on the CFP.
I have arranged a bilateral meeting for tomorrow with Commissioner Damanaki, where I intend to vigorously pursue Ireland’s position on key aspects of the reform which are critical for Ireland.
FETAC Council members do not receive any fees or remuneration for their service. Records in relation to attendance at FETAC council meetings and expenses received by Council members are not recorded at my Department. I have asked officials at my Department to request this information from FETAC and it will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.
Question 99: To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve the administration of all third level grants; his further plans to create a uniform system to coordinate all third level grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7889/11]
I am also moving ahead with plans to introduce a single grant awarding authority from 2012. In this regard, following the recommendation of an independent Selection Panel, I intend to designate the City of Dublin VEC as the single grant warding body following agreement with my Department of an implementation plan. The centralised body will operate on a transitional basis accepting all new applications from the 2012/13 academic year. The existing grant awarding authorities will continue to process grant renewals for their grant holders.
In tandem with these developments, my Department will continue to roll out the grants online application system and the payment of grants to students by EFT. In addition, commensurate with the provisions of the Student Support Act, an independent Appeals Board will also be established.
All of these developments will provide for fundamental reform of the student grants system and represent a concrete development in meeting the objectives set out in the action plan for the education sector on the Croke Park Agreement.
The Marine Institute has undertaken the collection of baseline data in order to allow the National Parks and Wildlife Service set conservation objectives for the site in question, and thereafter to allow the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food to reach a determination on permitting/licensing of relevance to the site. The data in question can be made publicly available by the Marine Institute, once the conservation objectives for the site have been completed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Marine Institute is an independent statutory agency, hence the internal management is a matter for the board, in which the Minister does not have a role. However, the Department has forwarded the request to the Institute for its consideration and for a direct reply to the Deputy.
Question 149: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the criteria used in conducting the baseline study for the special area of conservation in Kenmare Bay, County Kerry; the terms of the contract; the body or company conducting the study; when he expects the study to be completed and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7885/11]
The Marine Institute has undertaken the collection of baseline data in order to allow the National Parks and Wildlife Service to set conservation objectives for the site in question, and thereafter to allow the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food to reach a determination on permitting/licensing of relevance to the site. The data in question can be made publicly available by the Marine Institute, once the Conservation Objectives for the site have been completed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Marine Institute is an independent statutory agency; hence, the internal management is a matter for the board, in which the Minister does not have a role. However, the Department has forwarded the request to the Institute for its consideration and for a direct reply to the Deputy.
Noel Harrington: Foreshore and Aquaculture Licences
Question 150: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he will take to reduce the processing time for foreshore and aquaculture licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7887/11]
The current delay in the processing of new and renewal licence applications largely arises because the majority of areas for which the licences are sought are designated Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and/or Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 sites).
In the case of aquaculture sites located within Natura 2000 areas the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of these areas. This process is ongoing and significant progress has been made. This comprehensive data collection programme, together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives by the NPWS, will enable all new, renewal and review applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. This work represents a significant financial, administrative and scientific investment by the State in resolving this issue. The appropriate assessment of aquaculture applications will be dealt with on a bay-by-bay basis.
My Department continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of all outstanding cases having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation.
Noel Harrington: Coast Guard Equipment
Question 182: To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps he will take to implement the proposal in the programme for Government to explore the provision of an emergency towing vessel for the Coast Guard; if he will consider the option of a partnership with other bodies or a commercial company which may be interested in such a project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7886/11]
My Department has been pursuing efforts to develop, enhance and improve Ireland’s marine pollution prevention, preparedness and response capability from within existing and available resources and funds. On foot of the programme for Government, there will be a review of the risk posed by international shipping of oil and hazardous substance pollution and an assessment of what steps can be taken for the provision of an emergency towing capacity for the Coast Guard.
The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for the Coast Guard is in the process of being transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food.