Dáil Éireann - Volume 644 - 12 December, 2007

Other Questions. - Departmental Expenditure.

Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the Estimate for his Department for 2008. [34152/07]

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: The gross total allocation for my Department in 2008 is €1,078 million, comprising €888 million in the defence Vote and €190 million in the Army pensions Vote. This represents an increase of 7% on the 2007 allocation.

Almost 70% of the defence Estimate is expended on the pay and allowances for an average of 10,500 Permanent Defence Force personnel, some 880 civilian employees and approximately 380 Civil Service staff. The Estimate includes additional funding of €37 million for the proposed mission to Chad, the bulk of which will be expended on transport costs. This additional funding will ensure our troops in Chad will have the best possible equipment and facilities in what will be a very challenging environment.

[73] The ongoing investment in modern equipment and facilities for the Defence Forces will continue in 2008. Among the more significant payments expected to be made next year are final payment of €13 million on two AW 139 helicopters, final payment of €5 million on upgrade of Casa maritime aircraft, final payment of €6 million on contract for 25 additional Mowag APCs, €4 million for the purchase of 500 general purpose machine guns and initial down payment on proposed purchase of light tactical armoured vehicles. Over €43 million will be available in 2008 for the upgrade, refurbishment and maintenance of buildings and facilities for the Defence Forces. This will enable the major programme to provide modern accommodation and facilities for the Defence Forces which has been ongoing in recent years to continue in 2008.

The process of acquiring three new replacement vessels for the Naval Service is under way. The evaluation of stage one proposals and the preparation of a detailed specification for the “invitation to tender” stage are in progress, with tenders expected to issue in April 2008 and a contract awarded in late 2008 or early 2009. A token sum of €1 million has been provided in the 2008 Estimate to facilitate a down payment on the first of the new vessels. That will enable us to sign the contract.

Overall, the increased level of resources underlines the Government’s commitment to ensuring the modernisation process in defence will continue to make solid progress. The Army, Naval Service and Air Corps will be fully equipped to meet the challenges which lie ahead.

  Deputy Brian O’Shea: In the Estimates some figures stand out. The reduction in the allocation for consultancy services from €50,000 to €32,000 is welcome. I am concerned, however, about the 17% reduction in the Reserve Defence Force allocation from €12.5 million to €10.5 million. There is an 18% reduction in the figure for compensation from €7.6 million to €6.2 million. There is a 26% increase in costs arising from Ireland’s participation in the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy from €1.2 million to €1.6 million. Will the Minister explain the major reduction in appropriations-in-aid, down from almost €25 million to €10.7 million, a reduction of 57%?

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: These are estimated figures. On compensation, it is a demand-led scheme. Experience of the past few years has shown us that a provision of €6.2 million will be sufficient but if we have to compensate individuals above that level, a Supplementary Estimate will be required. Last year €12.5 million was provided for the Reserve Defence Force but only €9.5 million was spent. This year we estimate the cost at €10.5 million.

  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Will the Minister not increase the figure in case he needs more?

[74]   Deputy Willie O’Dea: Yes, €10.5 million represents an increase on €9.5 million; therefore, we will be spending 10% more. The increase in the contribution to the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy arises because we are tied into a fixed percentage of the cost of running the agency concerned, which has increased slightly.

The main element of appropriations-in-aid is rebates from the United Nations in respect of overseas missions. We do not expect to receive many such rebates this year because there is a difference between a UN mission, directly organised by the United Nations, and a UN mandated EU mission, for which we receive no rebates, in this instance, the Chad mission.

  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: For what percentage of GDP does the Defence Vote account? I understand it is approximately 0.7%. Not so long ago it was 1%, albeit of a smaller GDP but it was even smaller before we took over.

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: I do not have the precise figure but will get it for the Deputy. I refer not only to the Vote but also to the other measures in which the Department of Finance has allowed us to engage such as selling off property assets surplus to requirements, the proceeds of which we have reinvested in the defence Vote. We have a slimmed down, highly trained, well equipped Army in comfortable barracks, well used to foreign missions, the pride of the country. If Deputy Deenihan were to study the budget contributions of his colleagues on the Front Bench, he would not agree with increases in expenditure. Deputy Bruton tells us we are running the country into bankruptcy because we are spending too much but the Deputy is suggesting that we spend more.

  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I am talking about the return.

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: The Opposition cannot have it both ways.

  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I am asking about what is provided in the budget.

  Deputy Brian O’Shea: Do the Estimates provide fully for the figure of €57 million estimated as the cost of the mission to Chad or are we likely to see a Supplementary Estimate at the end of the year, if the mission goes ahead?

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: The Estimates fully provide for it. We were able to provide €20 million from our own resources. The extra allocation was €37 million.

  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: If the mission does not go ahead, where will the money be spent? Limerick.

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: We will find a way.