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 Header Item Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness] There are serious issues that need to be addressed and I ask the Minister of State to take a hands-on, common sense approach. I know he will achieve the best for the small and medium enterprises in Ireland.

Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I thank all of the Members who have contributed to the debate, which has been largely positive. As quickly as I can, I will go through some of the issues raised and there are other issues that I will leave and go through on Committee Stage because there might be a better opportunity then to tease them out with the Deputies.

A number of Deputies noted that the Tánaiste and Minister, Deputy Varadkar, was not here for the debate. Very frequently, people are critical of the roles of Ministers of State and their role in a given Department. For my part, I am the Minister of State with delegated responsibility for company law so it is important, when company law is being debated, that the person with that responsibility be here to go through it and engage with Members. In fairness to Deputy O'Reilly, at least she stayed around to participate in the debate.

Remote working from home is not always a good thing. Deputies were right to say that people who are working from home now are not doing so out of choice. They are doing so out of necessity. I agree with what Deputy Ó Ríordáin said about the lack of proper infrastructure and lack of access to proper equipment. It is for this reason that it is welcome the Department has launched a consultation process for people to feed into what needs to be done so we can have a proper system of working remotely, in which we will have the proper infrastructure, broadband and office infrastructure so people no longer need to leave Mullingar, Portlaoise or any of the commuter towns at 6 a.m. or 6.30 a.m. to go to work in Dublin. This is something we need to look at. We also have to be conscious that the mass exodus of people who normally work in Dublin has posed challenges to many of our service industries in the capital city. We cannot forget about that.

The Bill provides for meetings to be conducted by electronic means. The Government will use this interim period as a trial run for measures to see whether they should be enacted permanently. A number of people have said they welcome these changes but they would like to see them on a more permanent basis. We can see how they work out over the next four to five months and, if necessary, we will put them on a permanent basis.

Much has been said about the speed at which the legislation has been brought through. I would point out it is necessary and there are times when we have to act and respond quickly. Although there was no pre-legislative scrutiny, there was consultation with the trade unions through the Company Law Review Group. They fed into this legislation and welcome it. This is not about big business. I am tired listening to certain Deputies say that when a measure is introduced or a proposal is made to help and support business it is because it is for big business. The vast majority of businesses are small and medium enterprises. The vast majority of our businesses are run by people who employ local people and create opportunities and jobs. I do not think just because a measure is introduced that is pro-business or pro-enterprise it means we are against employees' rights or against employees for one reason or another. What we want to see is good businesses bringing forward opportunities for employees. We want to ensure businesses are supported because without businesses there is no work for employees. We need to remember that.

The July stimulus was raised numerous times in the debate. The stimulus is the greatest and largest injection in the history of the State. While there are people who would like to see more being done, we have to look at this in the round. We have to look at the level of grant aid that is being made available. The grants have increased from a minimum of €2,000 to €4,000 and from a minimum of €10,000 to €25,000. Perhaps one of the biggest daily overheads any business has is the cost of labour. We have provided certainty to our business community that until April next year there will be a subsidy and a grant of €204 per employee.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly We are ruled by the clock and I have to stop the Minister of State.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Perhaps we will have an opportunity while discussing amendments to make more points.

  Question put and agreed to.

Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

  Sections 1 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.


An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy O'Reilly tabled an amendment that was ruled out of order.

  Amendment No. 1 not moved.

  Question proposed: "That section 14 stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly The amendment I sought to make was on tactical insolvencies, an issue that has been raised by other Deputies. I take the point the Minister of State made about the Minister, and it is very good to have the Minister of State with direct delegated responsibility for this issue in the Chamber but it is not unusual for the Minister and the Minister of State to attend. My comments were directed at the Minister, who is not here. I fully respect that the Minister of State is here and that he is he very engaged, which is extremely welcome, but it is not unusual for the Minister and the Minister of State to attend together and it is unfortunate that, once again, the Tánaiste has not felt it was important enough to come to the Dáil to participate in a debate on his own legislation.

The amendment I tabled is on tactical insolvencies. We have had Clerys, TalkTalk and now Debenhams. Every time it happens people shrug their shoulders and say it is desperate and awful. Collectively, the Government and Opposition speak with one voice and say we cannot allow it to happen again. The Opposition brings forward Bills that would deal with it that get mired in procedure. Will the Minister of State commit to working with me and others who have an interest in progressing the legislation that reached Committee Stage in the previous Dáil? That Bill has been updated and is now extremely necessary. We cannot simply shrug our shoulders and say this should not be happening, that it is absolutely awful and that we cannot allow it to happen again but then somehow allow it to happen again.

While I have the floor, I want to say a word of thanks to all of the civil servants who have worked on this legislation. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, whether he would like to associate with or disassociate from the remarks made by his party colleague, Deputy MacSharry, that implied that during the lockdown civil and public servants were at home watching box sets and doing virtually no work.

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