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 Header Item Architectural Heritage (Continued)
 Header Item Film Industry Tax Reliefs
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 964 No. 1

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Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Two supplementary questions. Come on.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín May I make a contribution then?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We will start anyway. I call on the Minister to respond to Question No. 78.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Not much time, Peadar.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan Excuse me?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We will hear the Minister's response first.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We will hear the Minister's response. We are forfeiting the 30-second introduction.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan Is this Deputy Boyd Barrett's question?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Yes.

Film Industry Tax Reliefs

 78. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan her views on a report by an organisation (details supplied) which highlights flaws in the operation of the section 481 scheme and the misuse of trainees in the film industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3096/18]

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett for raising this issue. My Department is not aware of a report by the organisation to which he specifically referred in his question, and the organisation concerned has informed my Department that it has not produced such a report.

  However, the Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland jointly commissioned a report on the issue of training in the Irish film, television and animation industry. The study by consultants Crowe Horwath, Final Report in Respect of a Strategy for the Development of Skills for the Audiovisual Industry in Ireland, was published on the website of the Irish Film Board last August.

  The report found - the Deputy mentions this in his question - that the general view of stakeholders in the industry was that section 481 was an ineffective mechanism to deliver quality training opportunities for the industry. It recommended a number of options including the replacement of the requirement with a training levy but stated that further work would be required to design a new mechanism. The Department is working with the Irish Film Board to consider options in this regard as part of the overall response to the 14 key recommendations contained in the report.

  It should be noted that the section 481 tax credit system is hugely important in making Ireland an attractive location for internationally mobile film and TV drama productions and in providing significant high-level and high-quality employment in the audiovisual industry. Recent projects locating in Ireland include the BBC's "Little Women", AMC's "Into the Badlands", which returned to Ireland in April to film a third season in Ardmore Studios, "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" and the hugely successful "Vikings" series developed and produced here for the History Channel.

  However, it is very important that any requirements regarding training and the delivery of good-quality outcomes for trainees in return for generous tax credits provided by the Government are in situ. My Department will address this issue working closely with the Irish Film Board and having regard to the recommendations of the Crowe Horwath report.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I speak on behalf of hundreds of people working in the film industry who very much welcome investment from film companies coming into this country, making quality films and creating employment opportunities. However, these workers say section 481 tax breaks and the millions that are given out in loans to production companies based here are not providing, as section 481 requires such companies to do, "quality employment and training opportunities". The workers say that what is in fact happening is that the category of "trainee" is being ruthlessly abused. A person could be a trainee for 12 years, for example, and never actually get permanent employment. He or she is never qualified because there is no training structure whatsoever and the tax relief is just being abused. What is happening in the sector sounds very much like what is going on in construction. Very few people are directly or permanently employed and there is no proper training structure, just a lot of money going into these production companies without their giving the quality employment and training that film workers want and which the section 481 tax break requires is given as a condition. The workers say there is no oversight of this tax break, no governance and no enforcement and that, as a result, anyone who asks for direct PAYE employment, for example, will be blacklisted, there is bullying and the working time directive is being flagrantly abused in the industry. I ask the Minister to look seriously at this and meet representatives of the film workers, who are considering industrial action as we speak because they are so fed up with the situation in the film industry.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I remind the Deputy that he got enough time for two questions.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Deputy Boyd Barrett is right. This is a really important problem. Training in the sector has no beginning, middle or end. It has no certification whatsoever. It is a box-ticking exercise for firms to achieve their section 481 tax break. What it means is that people who are well qualified and well experienced are forced to go into the same positions over and over again. I have spoken to every sector of the film industry, and they agree there is absolutely a problem here. There is also a problem with the fact that most films and TV series are made with special purpose vehicles that exist only for the duration of work on the film so individuals are only employed momentarily in these organisations. There is a forum in a part of the Irish Film Board. The Minister should get the Irish Film Board to launch the forum to allow for all the stakeholders to work together to ensure they start to fix this. I believe there is a will in the sector to fix this. Secondly, I ask the Minister to ensure the actual workers in this sector are appointed to the Irish Film Board in order that they themselves have an opportunity to represent real issues to the Irish Film Board.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I will take a final supplementary question from Deputy Boyd Barrett and then revert to the Minister, and that is it because I-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I thought I would hear from the Minister and respond briefly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy takes advantage of my generosity. I call the Minister.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I thank Deputies Boyd Barrett and Tóibín. I do not disagree with what they say about the quality issues in respect of the training, which have been highlighted in this report. It seems to me that it was more of a box-ticking exercise than anything else, and I think the 14 recommendations have shown that. There is, therefore, no question but that we must do something about it. The recommendations of the economic analysis, which was commissioned by my Department and the Department of Finance and has just been finalised, and the Crowe Horwath report will provide inputs for the development of an industry-wide long-term plan for the production of film, TV, drama and animation in Ireland under Pillar 4 of the Creative Ireland programme. The issue of training, including section 481 training requirements, will be considered in the context of this proposed plan. I agree with the Deputies on this matter. It is a condition of the tax relief that the project must employ a minimum of two trainees for each €355,000 of corporation tax credit claimed, up to a maximum of eight trainees. We must ensure that those trainees are looked after and that there is quality in this regard. I will look at this in detail. I have spoken to my officials about it already. We know that production companies seeking section 481 tax relief must meet a range of conditions and have procedures in place to ensure compliance before the Revenue Commissioners issue a certification for filming of a project. However, I appreciate what both of these reports have found and I will certainly look at the matter in more detail with the economic analysis and see what I can do.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call on Deputy Boyd Barrett to ask a short supplementary question.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I will press for urgency on this. The workers are seriously considering taking industrial action in the near future because they are so fed up with this. Having trainees is fine, but it must be a real progression. One cannot be a trainee for 12 years. One might be a trainee for a couple of years, at which point one is certified and then a qualified worker in the film industry and should be paid and employed accordingly. The issue is not just one of trainees, but also one of people being taken on as contractors, a little like bogus self-employment in the building industry, whereby one is never actually directly employed. Shelf companies are set up for the duration of the film instead of people actually having some sort of permanency and security as they develop their skills and are paid and employed with proper conditions of employment that would follow from that. I ask the Minister to look at this and to engage with all sectors of those representing the workers in this industry.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call on the Minister to conclude briefly.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I have asked my Department to expedite the long-term plan in this regard. Looking at the summary of recommendations, out of the 14 recommendations, quite a few mention the training provided. There is a new policy framework for training and skills development for the audiovisual sector. It talks about development and continuation of much stronger links between training and education providers and the audiovisual industry. Recommendation 13 states a training fund should be established using an industry levy approach. Recommendation 14 states that Screen Training Ireland should be revamped to provide real leadership and implement lasting change regarding skills development with the audiovisual sector. We do not want to see exploitation by anyone, and I will do my best to ensure it does not happen.

  Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Business of Dáil

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Before we move on to Topical Issues, the Government Whip has an announcement to make.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I move:

That, notwithstanding the Order of the Dáil of 23 January, Government Business for today shall be Item 10, Motion re. Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast) (back from Committee); Item 30, Technological Universities Bill 2015 Report and Final Stage (resumed); Item 5, Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill 2017 Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and Item 31, Statements re. Report of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (resumed).


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