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 Header Item Jobs Initiative (Continued)
 Header Item Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 962 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald] That kind of research is what will keep our economy operating very well.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Can I assume from the Minister's reply with respect to the review that is taking place, that it is intended to pursue every avenue in every part of the country in regard to every industry in terms of the availability of investment locations, sites, services and procedures to be followed to encourage both indigenous and foreign direct investment in a way which we have not experienced heretofore, notwithstanding the good work that has already been done?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I can confirm to the Deputy that this whole area remains an absolute priority for the Government. The Action Plan for Jobs will be one of the key vehicles but it is only one. It is also about ensuring regional development. The Deputy would have seen in recent times that indigenous local companies are growing. A huge number of new companies are registering with the Companies Office every month, so there is huge activity and innovation, and people who are willing to take risks to set up companies. There is also continued foreign direct investment. If we consider the job announcements even in the past two or three weeks, we have had Regeneron in Limerick, which shows huge confidence in Limerick, a recent announcement in Waterford, two recent announcements in Drogheda and a company opened its centre in Galway recently. Those are just four examples. I see no reason that this level of regional investment should not continue. There is every indication it will continue but we cannot be complacent. There are very serious challenges facing us, with Brexit probably being the most serious one. All the indications are that Brexit will be very challenging for the vast majority of Irish businesses.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Before I move on to Question No. 10 in Deputy Niall Collins's name, I want to say that I am very disappointed with the slow progress we are making. I take some responsibility for that but I ask Ministers and Deputies to take some responsibility for it also. The purpose of the clock opposite us is to be mindful of the time. It is not right that we will get through only ten or 11 questions today. It is unfair to those Members who have questions tabled. Deputy Niall Collins might set the scene for how we should proceed.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

 10. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she has considered empowering the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to issue civil fines for anti-competitive practices.  [49597/17]

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Will the Minister outline any proposals she may have to empower the Competition and consumer Protection Commission to issue civil fines for anti-competitive practices? I am thinking in particular of ticketing practices in the concert sector and of practices in the insurance industry.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen I will try to take the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's advice on board.

I thank the Deputy for his question. The current legal position is that civil fines are not provided for in Irish law for anti-competitive practices. My Department obtained advice on the issue of civil fines from the Office of the Attorney General to the effect that civil fines are not provided for in Irish law for anti-competitive practices having regard to Article 38.1 of the Constitution, which provides that no person shall be tried on any criminal charge save in due course of law. In that context, any national legislation to introduce civil fines that would lower the burden of proof from beyond reasonable doubt to the balance of probability would pose constitutional difficulties having regard to the protection afforded under Article 38.1.

On 22 March 2017, the European Commission published a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council to empower the competition authorities of the member states to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the Internal Market. One of the aims of the directive is to ensure that all national competition authorities are able to impose effective deterrent fines. The proposal is currently being debated at the Council working group on competition and is also being considered by the European Parliament.

I am aware that the Law Reform Commission published an Issues Paper entitled Regulatory Enforcement and Corporate Offences on 27 January 2016. The Issues Paper invited views on the enforcement powers of the State’s main financial and economic regulators, including the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, and the issue of administrative and civil fines was raised. I understand the CCPC made a submission to the Law Reform Commission on 19 September 2017, in response to the Issues Paper, requesting the power to levy such fines. With respect to any recommendations or proposals that may emanate from this exercise in due course, we will carefully consider them in the Department.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The Minister of State has not outlined what his view is on this matter. Does he believe the CCPC should be empowered with financial sanctions? Some of our other regulations such as the Central Bank of Ireland, the Commission for Energy Regulation or the Data Protection Commissioner have powers to impose a financial sanction, yet this regulator does not. It is high time we seriously examined this matter. The Minister of State has cited to us on a number of occasions when we have raised this matter the constitutional issue but no more than the lack of regulations covering the gift voucher industry, which we conversed about earlier, it is the consumer who is ultimately losing out. What is the Minister of State's own take on this issue? Is he in favour of such a measure or will he merely coast along and allow another consultation process to drift on. We have had numerous comments, as the Minister of State will know, from the Attorney General on the constitutional prohibition in regard to it. Is the Minister of State in favour or not in favour of such a measure?

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen To follow up on my initial reply, it is important that we take on board the views on this matter. There are two areas concerned. The proposal currently being debated by the Council's working group and the European Commission has to be considered by the European Parliament. At this stage it is impossible for us to say what format the final EU measures will take. We must also bear in mind that the CCPC had made a submission to the Law Reform Commission on the area of the levy of fines. The main argument in regard to all this is with respect to Article 38.1 of the Constitution. We are listening to the debate in Europe and as soon as recommendations or proposals that may emanate from the Law Reform Commission's exercise come through, we will consider those in due course.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Does Deputy Niall Collins have a further supplementary?

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins No, that is fine.

  Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Ar dtús, tugaim aitheantas do mo chomhgleacaithe faoi choinne an chomhoibrithe, an chomhpháirtíochta, agus an chaidrimh agus comhrá dearfach aréir.

  The following business shall be taken today, No. 33, Finance Bill 2017 - Report and Final Stages (resumed); No. 6, Social Welfare Bill 2017 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 5, Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or in the Orders of the Dáil of Tuesday last, that in relation to today's business, the following arrangements shall apply:

(1) There shall be no weekly division time under Standing Order 70(2), and any divisions which would have been taken in the weekly division time today shall be taken immediately following the Order of Business on Tuesday, 28 November 2017;

(2) any divisions demanded on the questions for the Second Reading of either the Social Welfare Bill 2017 or the Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017 shall also be taken immediately following that Order of Business on Tuesday;

(3) The suspension of sitting under Standing Order 25(1) shall take place two hours after the Finance Bill 2017 resumes for 30 minutes;

(4) Topical issues under Standing Order 29A shall not be taken;

(5) No Private Member's Bill shall be taken under Standing Order 140A, and no committee report shall be taken under Standing Order 91(2); and

(6) The Dáil shall adjourn at 11.28 p.m., or on the conclusion of the proceedings on the Second Stage of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017, whichever is the earlier.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the proposal agreed to? Agreed.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan The report in today's edition of The Irish Times that the Department of Justice and Equality email, which has been under consideration this week, was unearthed in the Department two weeks ago on 9 November is mind-boggling and adds another layer to the issues facing the Tánaiste. I want her to be clear as to the nature of the criticism we make of her. She will be aware that the response of the State to the allegations made by Sergeant McCabe has been one of the issues of greatest political controversy in this country during the past three years. It has led to the resignation of a Minister for Justice and Equality and others. In spite of that, when we have raised legitimate concerns about what the State has known, she has sought to undermine those concerns and deny the seriousness of the issues we are raising. What the Tánaiste has done repeatedly is respond to allegations that we are not making against her. Last night, she sought legal advice in respect of issues which are not relevant to the matters of concern to her.


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