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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 574-591
 Header Item Action Plan for Jobs
 Header Item Advisory Group on Small Business Recommendations
 Header Item Job Creation
 Header Item Business Regulation
 Header Item Credit Availability
 Header Item Joint Labour Committees Agreements
 Header Item Industrial Relations
 Header Item National Minimum Wage
 Header Item Business Regulation
 Header Item Labour Market Flexibility
 Header Item Economic Competitiveness
 Header Item Grocery Industry Competition
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 162 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 574-591

Action Plan for Jobs

 574. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the number of targets missed in the action plan for jobs; if targets have been reset; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37410/12]

 575. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason targets were missed in the action plan for jobs; if there will be consequences for missed targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37411/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 574 and 575 together.

  The Government published the Action Plan for Jobs 2012 in February this year. The Plan contains 270 actions to be implemented in 2012 across all Government Departments as well as 36 State agencies to improve the operating environment for business and remove barriers to employment creation. The 270 individual actions are further broken down into Quarterly milestones or targets, specifying the body responsible for implementation in each case. Progress Reports on the delivery of these milestones are published at the end of each Quarter.

  As part of its commitment to drive the implementation of the Action Plan, the Government established a Committee to monitor the delivery of the Quarterly targets on an on-going basis. The Monitoring Committee comprises senior officials from my Department, the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and Forfás. To date, two Quarterly Progress Reports on the Action Plan have been published. The First Progress Report found that 80 of the 83 (96%) measures due to be implemented in the first quarter of the year were delivered on time. The Second Progress Report found that 72 of the 77 (94%) measures to be implemented in that quarter were delivered on time. Explanations for measures which were delayed are set out in the Progress Reports which are available on my Department’s website, www.djei.ie.

  Work on bringing these delayed targets to completion continued and I can report that all eight of the measures which were delayed in Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 have now been implemented. Therefore, 100% of the measures for delivery under the Action Plan for Jobs for the first half of the year have now been completed. The Progress Report on the Action Plan deliverables for the Third Quarter of 2012 will be published in mid-October.

Advisory Group on Small Business Recommendations

 576. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton which of the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Small Businesses have been implemented; if he intends to implement all of the recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37412/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Minister for Small Business, John Perry, chairs the Advisory Group on Small Business. This group published the Voice of Small Business Report in 2011, which was submitted to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Employment as the recommended small business actions for consideration in the Action Plan for Jobs.

  The Voice of Small Business contains fifty-seven actions across twelve broad policy areas. Thirty-four of the Advisory Groups actions/recommendations were included in the Action Plan for Jobs. The first two Quarterly Reports of the Action Plan for Jobs shows that sixteen of the thirty-four actions met their Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 timelines (the others have varying timelines). The two Progress Reports are published on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website. Eighteen further actions have different timelines which will be progressed over the remainder of 2012 and reported on in subsequent Action Plan for Jobs Quarterly Reports. The remaining 23 Actions from the Advisory Group’s Report, not included in the Action Plan for Jobs will be considered by the Group for inclusion in the Action Plan for Jobs 2013.

No Action Lead Responsibility Time frame Status
1 Lending Facilities and Access to Finance      
  Address the needs of small business as a matter of priority DJEI   Ongoing
  Implement Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme DJEI Q1 & Q2 Q1 & Q2 complete
  Implement Microenterprise Loan Fund DJEI Q1 & Q2 Q1 & Q2 complete
2 Labour Markets Cost and Flexibility      
  Implement a coordinated national labour Market Policy DJEI/DoF/DSP Q1 & Q3 Q1 complete
4 Cost of Doing Business      
4a Raise awareness among SMEs on reducing energy SEI/IDA/EI/ CEBS/Ind. Assoc Ongoing Ongoing
4b Accelerate introduction of broad based property tax and water charges DECLG Q1 House hold charge introduced
  Advance a range of solutions to reduce costs

-Implement recommendations of report of LGERG

-Direct Local Authorities to lower their Annual Rate on Valuation for 2012

-Accelerate the national Revaluations Process

-Require Local Authorities to consider the impact of development contributions on businesses and competitiveness generally.
DECLG Ongoing

Q1

Q1

Q2

Q2
Q1 complete

Q1 complete

Q2 delayed

Q2 complete
4c Report on progress to date towards Government 25% reduction target DJEI Ongoing  
  Audit and review multiplicity of licences required by businesses DJEI Q1 & Q3 Q1 complete
  Improve cooperation between State inspection & enforcement bodies incl. development of a Unique Business Identifier DJEI/DPER/ Other Depts Q2 Q2 complete
5 Government Procurement – Enabling Access by SMEs      
  Develop public sector supply chain access opportunities for small business using prequalification online process DJEI/DPER/ NPS/EI Q1 - Q4 Q1 & Q2 complete
  Support training & development of small firms and procurers NPS/DJEI Q2 Q2 complete
  Develop and implement a new model for procuring innovation within the public sector. DJEI/DPER/EI Q1 - Q4 Q1 & Q2 complete
  Establish an appeals mechanism that facilitates small firms to report concerns NPS Q2 – Q3 Q2 complete
8 Improving Cash flow      
8a Make available an Official Notice re: 15 day Prompt payments Rule DJEI Q1 Complete in full
9 Managing out of the Crisis      
  Develop a one-page guide encouraging small businesses to ask for help DJEI Q2 Complete in full
10 Management Development for Growth      
10b Deliver on MDC recommendations – allocate funding for SME management development DES/Skillnets Q1 & Q2 Q1 & Q2 complete

Job Creation

 577. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37414/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As I have pointed out on many occasions, the Government does not create jobs – entrepreneurs and successful businesses do. However, the Government has a key role to play in providing the environment where businesses can start-up, expand and create jobs. Within the first 100 days of coming into office, the Government introduced a Jobs Initiative which was aimed at rebuilding confidence in the economy, providing opportunities for re-skilling for those who had lost their jobs, and assisting people to get back to work.

Building on the Jobs Initiative, the Action Plan for Jobs, which was launched on 13th February last, aims to transform the operating environment for business in order to support enterprise growth and job creation. The Government will achieve this objective by systematically removing obstacles to competitiveness, putting downward pressure on business costs, promoting innovation and trade, supporting new and existing businesses to develop and expand, and by deepening the impact of foreign direct investment in Ireland. The Government has also identified, in the Action Plan, a number of key sectors where Ireland can gain competitive advantage in global markets.The Action Plan for Jobs has set a target of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016, with the longer term objective of having 2 million people at work by 2020 as part of our goal of making Ireland the best small country in which to do business.

The Action Plan contains over 270 individual measures to be delivered in 2012 which are further broken down into Quarterly milestones. Progress Reports on the delivery of these milestones are published at the end of each Quarter. 95% of all 160 measures to be implemented in the first two Quarters of 2012 were delivered on time; those that were somewhat delayed have now been completed.

Some significant objectives have been realised, including the introduction of legislation underpinning the Microfinance Fund and the Partial Credit Guarantee scheme, the launch of a Development Capital Fund, new supports for first time exporters and the launch of a National Broadband Plan. We are reforming supports to small businesses, we have published the National Research Prioritisation Exercise, and we have launched the Succeed in Ireland scheme to help identify and encourage companies that might set up in Ireland.

The positive impact of the Government’s policies on job creation are beginning to show. 2011 saw a net increase of 6,000 jobs in IDA-supported companies and a number of major foreign direct investments have been announcements so far this year. Enterprise Ireland companies achieved €15.2 billion in exports last year – the highest level ever – and employment in the agency’s client companies stabilised in 2011 after 30,000 job losses in the period 2007 to 2010.

Employment in the tourism sector also increased by 8,700 in the period March 2011 to March 2012, supported in particular by the measures taken in the Jobs Initiative which lowered VAT rates and halved employer’s PRSI on earnings up to €356 per week. The Government will continue to deliver on its commitments in the Action Plan for Jobs, which will be an annual process setting out clear targets to be delivered each year to support job creation.

Business Regulation

 578. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on reducing costs for businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37417/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton A key objective of the Government is to create a supportive enterprise environment so businesses can start up, grow and generate employment. To do this, we need to keep costs for business as low as possible, reduce unnecessary administrative burdens and provide supports to enterprises where appropriate. Some operating costs for business are largely outside the control of Government. For example, fuel and energy prices are primarily driven by external factors such as global fossil fuel prices. The Government’s approach has been to identify those areas of policy it can influence to bring about cost reductions or provide supports to business.

The Action Plan for Jobs includes a series of measures for delivery across Government to reduce business costs and improve competitiveness. These include, for example: providing supports to businesses to reduce their costs through energy efficiency measures and the Accelerated Capital Allowance scheme; reforming the statutory wage setting mechanism and making it more appropriate to our modern economy. The legislation to give effect to this has now been enacted through the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012; improving access to finance, including through the temporary Partial Loan Guarantee scheme and the Microfinance Fund. Legislation to underpin these schemes has now been enacted; reducing the administrative burden on business across seven key Departments and the Revenue Commissioners, with a view to achieving a 25% reduction by the end of the year. Administrative burdens within own Department’s area of responsibility has been reduced by over 24% so far, yielding potential savings of €206 million per annum for business; encouraging Local Authorities to freeze or reduce commercial rates. All but one Local Authority has frozen or reduced their rates for this year. The remaining Local Authority increased its Annual Rate of Valuation due to a legal requirement following the extension of a town boundary; simplifying and extending the Employer’s PRSI Incentive scheme, making it easier for employers to hire someone from the Live Register and reduce their payroll costs.

The implementation of these and many other measures in the Action Plan for Jobs will help to further improve our international competitiveness and reduce costs for business.

The Government’s progress in improving Ireland’s competitiveness is reflected in the international competitiveness rankings. The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2012, which was published last May, saw Ireland improving four places in the overall rankings to 20th overall. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2012-2013 which was published earlier this month also showed Ireland improving two places in the overall rankings, to 27th place.

Credit Availability

 579. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on improving access to credit for businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37418/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Improving access to credit is a priority on the business agenda and is an issue which the Government is addressing in a comprehensive and co-ordinated manner. To address the issue my Department is currently in the process of introducing two targeted schemes to support an additional flow of credit into the economy namely the Microenterprise Loan Fund and the Temporary Partial Loan Guarantee Scheme.

  The Microenterprise Loan Fund will improve access to credit for microenterprises and facilitate the growth and expansion of viable businesses from all industry sectors across the country, which have been refused access to credit from the banks. The Fund has a significant entrepreneurship focus to encourage all would-be entrepreneurs, including those who are unemployed. It will also add value to other Government schemes of support for entrepreneurs and unemployed persons, such as the Back to Work Allowance or the Seed Capital Scheme.

  Support will be in the form of loans for up to €25,000, available to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises, with viable business propositions, that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks. The potential viability of the business proposal will be the dominant factor in all credit decisions. The €10m allocation, supplemented by €15m borrowing from other sources will generate €40m in additional lending for microenterprises. It will help the establishment and growth of microenterprises and create over 3800 jobs at a cost per job of approximately €3k per job over the 5 year horizon.

  The second initiative being pursued by my Department is the Temporary Partial Loan Guarantee Scheme. This is being introduced for SMEs who, because of lack of collateral or because of the sector they operate in, face difficulties in accessing traditional bank credit. Commercially viable, well performing micro, small and medium enterprises that have a solid business plan and a defined market for their products or services, and demonstrating their ability to repay the loan is the target of this scheme. The minimum permissible loan value will be €10,000 and the maximum will be €1,000,000. The Guarantee Scheme will facilitate up to €150 million of additional lending per annum for SMEs. The benefits forecast to arise from this intervention in each year of operation, assuming €150 million of additional lending, include: over 1,000 jobs created and over €25m of exchequer benefits in tax revenues and welfare cost savings.

  In addition to these initiatives the Innovation Fund Ireland (IFI) and Development Capital Schemes are helping Irish companies access credit in the current difficult environment. IFI is a key pillar of support for dynamic new industries, and investments. The Fund facilitates job creation in innovative export focused sectors as well as providing a return to the exchequer over time. €250 million was made available to the Fund to make commitments.

  Under the Scheme, Enterprise Ireland requires Venture Capital fund managers to establish an office in Ireland and to invest the equivalent of the Enterprise Ireland commitment in Irish companies or companies with significant operations in Ireland. Aside from these conditions, Enterprise Ireland invests on the same terms as the private sector sharing the risk and the rewards. A second call for proposals was issued earlier this year following the announcement of the first investment under the first call for expressions of interest. Application under this are currently being evaluated and decision are expected shortly. The Development Capital Scheme has been developed to complement the existing suite of financial supports offered by Enterprise Ireland (EI) to business.

  Longer-term investment capital is currently not readily available to Irish growth focused companies in either the form of debt or equity, and there is very limited private equity funds/debt available to innovative SMEs. This situation has resulted in an equity gap, which is constraining the development of a key cohort of established Irish growth companies.

  The exchequer funding requirement for this scheme is €50m over 10 years. It is proposed that EI will commit €25m each to two funds which will leverage a further €50m each from the private sector. Fund investments supported by EI under this scheme will be made with the State sharing equally in the risks alongside investors. The proposed scheme will focus on funds that provide equity or quasi debt of between €2m to €10m per investment although it is likely that many investments would be in the €2m to €5m range. The Scheme was launched on the 12 April 2012 and a call was issued by Enterprise Ireland for ‘expressions of interest’, from fund managers, with a closing date of 16 July 2012, for receipt of expressions. The Scheme is currently under review.

Joint Labour Committees Agreements

 580. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on joint labour committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37420/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 was enacted on 24 July 2012 and commenced on 1 August 2012. The main purpose of the Act is to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to reform the Joint Labour Committee system. The Act provides for a radical overhaul of the system so as to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions. It reinstates a robust system of protection for low paid and vulnerable workers in these sectors in the aftermath of the 2011 High Court ruling in the John Grace Fried Chicken case.

In addition, the Act provides for the more comprehensive measures required to strengthen the legal framework for the Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreement sectoral wage setting mechanisms, under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004, in the light of deficiencies in the original legislation identified in the High Court judgment.

The new Section 41A of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 (inserted by Section 11 of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012) provides that reviews of the JLCs will be carried out by the Labour Court, as soon as practicable after the commencement of the Act. I understand that the work will begin on the process shortly. The outcome of these reviews will inform the Labour Court as to whether any JLC should be maintained in its current form, amalgamated with another JLC or its establishment order amended (new section 41(A) (4) of the 1946 Act). Accordingly, any discussion in an existing JLC on a new Employment Regulation Order would be seen as anticipating the outcome of the reviews.

I have also moved to implement a number of additional reforms that will complement the measures provided for in the Bill and which arise from the Duffy/Walsh Report. Using my powers under section 40 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, I have requested the Labour Court to put in train the necessary steps for the abolition of the three JLCs (the Aerated Waters and Wholesale Bottling; Provender Milling and Clothing JLCs) as set out in Recommendation 3 of the Duffy/Walsh Report, on the basis that these sectors have declined considerably in terms of numbers employed, or have effectively ceased to function as wage fixing bodies.

I have also asked the Labour Relations Commission to begin work on the formulation of two Codes of Practice. The first, on Sunday Working, will provide guidance to employers, employees and their representatives in sectors covered by Employment Regulation Orders, on arrangements that may be put in place to comply with the options specified at section 14 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. The second will address the standardisation of benefits in the nature of pay – including overtime and the conditions under which it becomes payable – across sectors covered by JLCs.

Industrial Relations

 581. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on collective bargaining rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37421/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton It has been the consistent policy of successive Irish Governments to promote collective bargaining through the laws of this country and through the development of an institutional framework supportive of a voluntary system of industrial relations that is premised upon freedom of contract and freedom of association. There is also an extensive range of statutory provisions designed to back up the voluntary bargaining process, together with long-established dispute settling institutions that play an important role in disputes relating to collective bargaining.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to ensure that Irish law on employees’ rights to engage in collective bargaining is consistent with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Giving effect to this commitment will require consultation with stakeholders, including employer and worker representatives, and a review of the experience of the operation of the existing legislative framework as put in place under the Industrial Relations Acts of 2001 and 2004. This consultation process will be initiated in the near future. I am certain that satisfactory arrangements can be put in place that will reconcile our constitutional, social and economic traditions, and our international obligations, as well as ensure continued success in attracting investment into our economy.

National Minimum Wage

 582. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on the minimum wage; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37422/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The current Programme for Government contained a commitment to reverse the €1 per hour reduction in the National Minimum Wage introduced by the previous Government on 1 February 2011. Agreement was reached with the Troika on the reversal. The increase was provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 and effected by the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (Section 11) (No. 2) Order 2011 from July 1 2011. The restoration of the National Minimum Wage to €8.65 per hour represents a significant commitment by the Government to protect the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers. There are no plans for further adjustments to the National Minimum Wage.

Business Regulation

 583. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on reducing red tape for businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37426/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department and its Offices and Agencies continue to focus on reducing administrative burdens on business, with a reduction of 24.5% already having been achieved; this amounts to potential annual savings for business of over €206 million. Details of all the initiatives making up this total are available on my Department’s website www.djei.ie.

Successful initiatives resulting in significant savings include: In Company Law, savings of €82 million per annum have already been realised, more than €33 million of which are due to the work of the Companies Registration Office (CRO), as companies can submit their annual returns online via the CRO website and can now use digital signatures for the B1 Form and Accounts; the audit exemption threshold has been increased to the maximum level permitted under EU law. This will achieve potential savings for Irish SMEs of approximately €2.8 million annually; in Health & Safety Law, a total of €123 million in annual administrative savings for business has been delivered by the HSA via two key projects: the BeSMART online tool for preparing the Risk Assessment and Safety Statement (€59m), and the SMP20 Guidelines (€64m), which assist construction firms with fewer than 20 employees in establishing and maintaining an effective safety management system.

The reorganisation of the State's five existing Employment Rights and Industrial Relations bodies, that I set in train last year, will, among other matters, deliver a simplified two-tiered structure comprising a single body of first instance, the Workplace Relations Commission, and a single body of appeal, in effect an enhanced Labour Court. This new structure will provide a better service for both employees and employers, with fewer delays and reduced administrative burdens. Already there has been some significant early progress, including the development of a single complaint form for all workplace relations complaints, the establishment of a single contact portal, Workplace Relations Customer Services, to handle all complaints and enquiries, the launch of a single website, www.workplacerelations.ie, containing all relevant information on employment rights and industrial relations and the commencement of a Pilot Early Resolution Service which will seek to resolve disputes without recourse to adjudication or inspection. Work has commenced on the drafting of a Workplace Relations Bill to give effect to this new structure.

My Department also coordinates the cross-Government measurement and reduction of administrative burdens towards the 25% target by the end of 2012. A project to measure the burden imposed by regulation under the responsibility of seven Departments and Revenue was initiated in September 2011. Following completion of its measurement exercise, each participating Department must then plan how it will achieve the remaining reductions necessary to reach the target and report to Government with its Simplification Plan. The Revenue’s report on its administrative burden reductions, which have reached the 25% target, has been published on its website.

Work is continuing to identify new areas where administrative burdens on business can be reduced and, in this regard, the High Level Group on Business Regulation has prioritised a number of areas for attention in its Work Programme for 2012. These areas are currently being considered and the findings will be published in the Group’s annual report later this year.

Labour Market Flexibility

 584. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on tackling labour market costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37430/12]

 585. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on increasing labour market flexibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37431/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 584 and 585 together.

  Employment policies that promote labour market flexibility together with tax and benefit systems that reward work and provide a pathway to employment, education and training opportunities for those who have lost their jobs are a necessary prerequisite for progress. The measures in the Government’s Action Plan on Jobs together with those to support the unemployed to return to the workforce in Pathways to Work   are consistent with the approach in the European Union’s guidelines for national employment policies to help to create conditions favourable to job creation through enhancing, at the same time, flexibility and security in the labour market.

  The Employment Performance Monitor 2012 endorsed by the EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in June 2012 identified the continuing rate of decline in nominal and real unit labour costs as particularly positive outcomes of Ireland’s recent labour market performance. The decline in unit labour costs means that productivity has increased faster than earnings – thus indicating an improvement in competitiveness. While the rate of growth in Irish unit labour costs significantly exceeded the OECD and euro area averages between 2005 and 2008, unit labour costs in Ireland have been falling consistently since then. Unit labour costs are improving faster in the internationally trading manufacturing sector than in more closed sectors of the economy. In its recent European Economic Forecast for Spring 2012, the European Commission noted an improved performance in Ireland’s export sector and also growth in Ireland’s indigenous firms due to competitiveness improvements and the continuing fall in unit labour costs on the back of productivity improvements and wage moderation.   Irish labour wage rates – when adjusted for productivity – are becoming more cost competitive.

  The enactment of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 allows for a reduction in the number of Employment Regulations Orders (EROs) and in the number of minimum wage rates that can be set in each ERO, and excludes conditions of employment covered in other legislation such as Sunday premium rates. The overall effect of reforms in the legal framework for the Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements will be to make minimum wage setting mechanisms more responsive to changing economic circumstances and to enhance competitiveness and preserve jobs in the affected sectors.

  Ireland’s labour market flexibilities are acknowledged as a valuable accompaniment of our open economy, high level of human capital and business friendly environment. The quality of Ireland’s labour market ranks highly in international comparisons. In the 2012 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Ireland is ranked first in terms of availability of skilled labour and first for the flexibility and adaptability of people.

  The Action Plan for Jobs identifies the scope for reducing the cost of business and easing new recruitment through a series of initiatives, including: simplifying and extending the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme, which exempts employers from liability to pay their share of PRSI for certain employees. The scheme has been extended to cover the first 18 months of employment; the National Internship Scheme provides internship opportunities of 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals in organizations in the private, public and community & voluntary sectors; the Revenue Job Assist Scheme provides incentives to employers through a double deduction and for employees through additional tax allowances for those unemployed for at least 12 months; the incentive scheme to encourage foreign mobile talent (SARP) will allow multinationals and indigenous companies to attract people to create more jobs and facilitate business expansion in Ireland.

High unemployment remains a difficult challenge and requires resolute action through the transformation of labour market activation policies along the lines outlined in the Government’s policy statement Pathways to Work.

Economic Competitiveness

 586. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on tackling competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37432/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Competitiveness is determined by a variety of factors, including the cost of doing business, productivity levels, the availability of skilled labour, good infrastructure, the quality and intensity of innovation and research, and regulation that supports enterprise growth. Ireland has regained some of the competitiveness it had lost and this is reflected in the fact that Ireland’s rating improved four places from 24th to 20th in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook for 2012. Earlier this month, the World Economic Forum also reported that Ireland has improved its competitiveness ranking, from 29th to 27th   place in that organisation’s Global Competitiveness Index.

  Despite these encouraging trends, we must ensure that the improvements we have achieved in our competitiveness are structural in nature and sustained in the longer-term. The Government’s Action Plan for Jobs includes a range of initiatives to improve our competitiveness, including measures to:

- promote investment in innovation and research,

- reduce costs for businesses,

- align skills with enterprise needs,

- prioritise infrastructural investment, and

- reduce costs through sensible regulation.

  Details of the specific measures to be taken in each of these areas are available in the Action Plan for Jobs which is available on my Department’s website, www.djei.ie. I am also commencing drafting of the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs which will have a strong focus on continuing to improve Ireland’s competitiveness.

  Question No. 587 answered with Question No. 570.

Grocery Industry Competition

 588. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his policy on a code of practice for the grocery goods sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37435/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to enact legislation to regulate certain practices in the grocery goods sector.   I intend to give effect to this commitment by including an enabling provision in the legislation currently being prepared by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority, which will allow for the introduction of a statutory Code of Practice in the grocery goods sector. It is hoped to publish this legislation before the end of the year.

Departmental Expenditure

 589. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will detail in tabular form the total cost of providing entertainment for his Department since coming to office inclusive of costs incurred from use of the ministerial allowance; the occasions for which entertainment was provided; the entertainers used; the breakdown of costs associated with each occasion; if there is a policy regarding the booking of entertainers within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37448/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The total amount spent on providing entertainment by my Department since taking up office in March 2011 is €18,749.98. There have been no payments in respect of ministerial allowance by my Department in the period.

  Expenditure on official entertainment in my Department is normally confined to business lunches and dinners, for example where it is appropriate and necessary to host senior-level foreign officials. The number of civil servants attending official functions should be kept to a minimum. With the exception of Ministerial functions, entertainment is subject to the prior approval of an Assistant Secretary.

  Details of the expenditure on entertainment are provided in the following table.

- Occasion Attendees Cost
Evening Reception at Langton House Hotel, Kilkenny. The Patent Office hosted the EPO Patent Conference 2011 in Kilkenny from 18 – 20 October 2011. As part of this event a reception was held at Langton House Hotel to demonstrate local cuisine and traditional Irish entertainment. 300 delegates. €18,749.98

Departmental Expenditure

 590. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the amount spent on food and drink by his Department; if he will provide a breakdown of what this involved; the occasions on which food and drink was provided; those present; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37464/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The total amount spent on food and drink by my Department since 9 March 2011 is €23,037.65. Details are provided in the table.

- Occasion Attendees Cost
Lunch in Houses of Oireachtas Official lunch for Small Business Advisory Group hosted by Minister Perry Minister Perry & 9 others €215.30
Dinner in Deane's Deli, Belfast Working dinner to discuss Employment Rights & Corporate Service matters with Northern Ireland Office officials 2 Dept. & 2 Northern Ireland Office officials €99.33
Lunch in National Concert Hall, Dublin Working lunch to discuss Employment Rights matters with Northern Ireland Office officials 2 Dept. & 2 Northern Ireland Office officials €93.05
Catering provided by Gerard's Café & Deli for in-house meeting Working lunch to discuss Temporary Agency Work Directive with officials from Northern Ireland's Department of Employment and Learning who travelled to Dublin to attend meeting. Dept. & Northern Ireland Office officials €66.00
Catering provided by Gerard's Café & Deli for in-house meeting Refreshments for bilateral meeting with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Skills officials from UK. Dept. & UK officials €87.60
Lunch in One Pico Restaurant EU Competitiveness Meeting held in Dublin - Official lunch hosted by EU Section of Dept. 2 Dept. & 15 EU officials €697.50
Lunch in Hugo's Wine Bar, Dublin Lunch with EU Commission enterprise officials. 3 Dept. & 2 Commission officials €113.20
Dinner in Stephen's Green Hibernian Club Bilateral meeting with Swedish Trade Policy Committee. 2 officials €83.70
Dinner in Stanhope Hotel, Brussels Full Member States of Trade Policy Committee. Each Member State hosts a working dinner approx. every 12-15 months. Member States of Trade Policy Committee. €770.00
Lunch in New Millennium Restaurant, Dublin. Lunch meeting with Commercial Section of Chinese Embassy on occasion of changeover of head of Section. 7 officials €100.50
Dinner in Town Bar & Grill, Dublin. Dinner with Social Finance Foundation Executives and Chairperson relating to work carried out (free of charge) on cofinance Proposal. 3 Dept. and 3 SFF officials €316.74
Catering provided by Zagora Catering, Armagh. Lunch for delegates attending the North South Ministerial Council Sectorial meeting in Armagh on 25 July, hosted by n Richard Bruton. 20 officials €255.01
Dinner in The Marble City Bar, Kilkenny. Working dinner with European Patent Office delegation re planning for the EPO Patent Information Conference held in Kilkenny Oct 11. 5 officials €140.80
Dinner in One Pico Restaurant, Dublin. Working dinner with senior Dutch officials on the Irish Presidency preparations and relevant dossiers at the Competitiveness Council. 2 Dept. and 3 Dutch officials €309.90
Catering provided by Gerard's Café & Deli. Lunch for 40 persons attending talks and presentations given as part of EU Commission visit to Dublin in the context of Revenue Customs - Market Surveillance Authorities Cooperation. Revenue Customs provided venue, teas, coffees & biscuits, this Dept. undertook to provide lunch. 40 officials €348.00
Catering provided by O'Brien's Sandwich Bar Supply of refreshments, food and drink for the Junior Inventor prize giving ceremony. Approx. 125 €591.04
Evening Reception at Langton House Hotel, Kilkenny. Evening to entertain delegates of EPO Patent Information Conference 2011 to demonstrate local cuisine and traditional Irish entertainment. 300 delegates. €18,749.98
- Occasion Attendees Cost
Lunch in Houses of Oireachtas Official lunch for Small Business Advisory Group hosted by Minister Perry Minister Perry & 9 others €215.30
Dinner in Deane's Deli, Belfast Working dinner to discuss Employment Rights & Corporate Service matters with Northern Ireland Office officials 2 Dept. & 2 Northern Ireland Office officials €99.33
Lunch in National Concert Hall, Dublin Working lunch to discuss Employment Rights matters with Northern Ireland Office officials 2 Dept. & 2 Northern Ireland Office officials €93.05
Catering provided by Gerard's Café & Deli for in-house meeting Working lunch to discuss Temporary Agency Work Directive with officials from Northern Ireland's Department of Employment and Learning who travelled to Dublin to attend meeting. Dept. & Northern Ireland Office officials €66.00
Catering provided by Gerard's Café & Deli for in-house meeting Refreshments for bilateral meeting with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Skills officials from UK. Dept. & UK officials €87.60
Lunch in One Pico Restaurant EU Competitiveness Meeting held in Dublin - Official lunch hosted by EU Section of Dept. 2 Dept. & 15 EU officials €697.50
Lunch in Hugo's Wine Bar, Dublin Lunch with EU Commission enterprise officials. 3 Dept. & 2 Commission officials €113.20
Dinner in Stephen's Green Hibernian Club Bilateral meeting with Swedish Trade Policy Committee. 2 officials €83.70
Dinner in Stanhope Hotel, Brussels Full Member States of Trade Policy Committee. Each Member State hosts a working dinner approx. every 12-15 months. Member States of Trade Policy Committee. €770.00
Lunch in New Millennium Restaurant, Dublin. Lunch meeting with Commercial Section of Chinese Embassy on occasion of changeover of head of Section. 7 officials €100.50
Dinner in Town Bar & Grill, Dublin. Dinner with Social Finance Foundation Executives and Chairperson relating to work carried out (free of charge) on cofinance Proposal. 3 Dept. and 3 SFF officials €316.74
Catering provided by Zagora Catering, Armagh. Lunch for delegates attending the North South Ministerial Council Sectorial meeting in Armagh on 25 July, hosted by n Richard Bruton. 20 officials €255.01
Dinner in The Marble City Bar, Kilkenny. Working dinner with European Patent Office delegation re planning for the EPO Patent Information Conference held in Kilkenny Oct 11. 5 officials €140.80
Dinner in One Pico Restaurant, Dublin. Working dinner with senior Dutch officials on the Irish Presidency preparations and relevant dossiers at the Competitiveness Council. 2 Dept. and 3 Dutch officials €309.90
Catering provided by Gerard's Café & Deli. Lunch for 40 persons attending talks and presentations given as part of EU Commission visit to Dublin in the context of Revenue Customs - Market Surveillance Authorities Cooperation. Revenue Customs provided venue, teas, coffees & biscuits, this Dept. undertook to provide lunch. 40 officials €348.00
Catering provided by O'Brien's Sandwich Bar Supply of refreshments, food and drink for the Junior Inventor prize giving ceremony. Approx. 125 €591.04
Evening Reception at Langton House Hotel, Kilkenny. Evening to entertain delegates of EPO Patent Information Conference 2011 to demonstrate local cuisine and traditional Irish entertainment. 300 delegates. €18,749.98

Departmental Expenditure

 591. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since he came to office; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [37480/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department did not spend any money on hair and make-up since my coming to Office in March 2011.


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