Thursday, 3 February 2005
Personal Explanation by Minister.
In reply to a parliamentary question on Tuesday of this week from Deputy Burton, I indicated that no further communication had been received from the European Commission since last April in regard to the position of staggering tax relief under EU state aid rules. I wish to correct the Dáil record in that respect that it has since been brought to my attention that the Commission issued a letter on 6 January for transmission to my Department via the permanent representation in Brussels. This is the normal route for such communications. This letter had not been received by my Department at the time I answered the question. Such a letter was not in the Department and consequently I could not have been aware of it when I replied. When subsequently informed that such a letter existed in my Department, I immediately sought and was given a copy of the letter by the Commission services.
In the letter, the Commission Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development states that it has come to a preliminary conclusion that the stallion tax exemption would seem to constitute an aid scheme which is not compatible with the Common Market. The letter sets out the Commission's reasoning and, against this background, invites Ireland to submit its comments within one month together with any concrete proposals regarding how the scheme in question could be brought in line with Article 7 of the EC treaty. My Department is examining the letter and will arrange to meet the Commission. This matter will require taking legal advice. We have sought an extension of the one-month deadline which I believe will be granted.
I regret that this information was not available to me at the time I answered the question. I apologise for inadvertently not providing the correct information to the House for the reason I have given and am glad to take this opportunity to correct the record with this updated information.