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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 263-274
 Header Item Vehicle Testing
 Header Item Insurance Costs
 Header Item UK Referendum on EU Membership
 Header Item Trade Agreements
 Header Item UK Referendum on EU Membership
 Header Item IDA Data
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 916 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 78 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 263-274

Vehicle Testing

 263. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if his Department or a body under its aegis has undertaken, or plans to undertake, an investigation into the levels of health-damaging pollutants emitted by diesel or petrol car models in the Irish market in the aftermath of an emissions testing scandal (details supplied); if he has undertaken a study measuring the differences in nitrogen oxide emissions measured in laboratory and under normal driving conditions as the Department of Transport in the United Kingdom has done; and if so, the results of these investigations.  [19031/16]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross ​The emissions issue referred to by the Deputy includes consumer rights issues, primarily, and environmental protection issues rather than road safety. My colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has primary responsibility for consumer affairs, while my colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has primary responsibility for environmental matters.  As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have no policy or legislative responsibility in relation to investigating the levels of health damaging pollutants emitted into the environment.

With regard to measuring the differences in nitrogen oxide emissions detected in laboratory versus normal driving conditions, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), under the remit of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, is Ireland's National Type Approval Authority for motor vehicles.  I understand that the NSAI do not currently conduct any such investigations.

​My Department recognises that the issues around emissions require the involvement of a number of Government Departments and is engaged where its responsibilities can assist colleagues in addressing certain complex areas.

Insurance Costs

 264. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the action she is taking to address the escalation in the cost base of small and medium-sized enterprises associated with soaring insurance costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18918/16]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor): Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Improving Ireland’s competitiveness position is a key economic priority for Government. As set out in 'A Programme for a Partnership Government', our objective is to protect our national competitiveness from unsustainable cost growth and to deliver a job-fit business environment which ranks in the top tier globally.

  The Costs of Doing Business Report published by the National Competitiveness Council on April 21st provides an assessment of Ireland's cost competitiveness performance vis-à-vis a range of competitor countries. The report, which has been noted by Government, concentrates on the costs that are largely domestically determined such as labour, property, transport, energy, water, waste, communications, credit /financial, and business service. It finds that Ireland’s cost base has improved across a range of metrics over the last five years. This has made Irish firms more competitive internationally and made Ireland a more attractive location for firms to base their operations in. However, despite these improvements, Ireland remains a relatively high cost location for a range of key business inputs and there is upward cost pressure evident in the market for commercial insurance. The report is a timely reminder of the risks of complacency regarding our cost competitiveness. To protect the gains achieved to date, to sustain the recovery, and to ultimately spread the benefits of economic growth to all, we must continue to enhance all aspects of our cost competitiveness. The policy implications of the Costs of Doing Business report and the associated reforms required to address Ireland’s cost base, will be included in the Council’s annual Competitiveness Challenge report which will be brought to Government and published later this year.

  Insurance costs are relevant to businesses of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy. In general insurance costs account for a relatively low proportion of the overall enterprise cost base. While insurance costs represent a minor component of enterprise operating costs, premium increases can have an impact on costs, particularly for SMEs and micro enterprises. Under EU law, the ability of the Government to influence insurance pricing is limited. While the provision and the pricing of insurance policies is a commercial matter for insurance companies, competitive and transparent markets are vital.

  While my Department has no role in the supervision or regulation of insurance, which is a policy and supervisory matter for the Department of Finance and the Central Bank respectively, last year, the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) considered the commercial insurance market in Ireland as part of its 2015 Costs of Doing Business in Ireland 2015 report. It subsequently set out a range of potential actions which could help facilitate enhanced cost competitiveness in the non-life commercial insurance market. These were set out in its Competitiveness Challenge 2015 report. The Council concluded that the absence of price data makes it very difficult to assess market conditions and competitiveness in the non-life insurance market. The Council subsequently recommended that responsibility for improving insurance cost competitiveness of commercial insurance must be clearly assigned and accorded sufficient priority by policymakers and there is a need to comprehensively benchmark insurance costs and the drivers of costs in Ireland with costs in our key competitors.

  The Department of Finance is currently examining the factors which contribute to increasing costs of insurance. This work is part of an overall review of policy in the insurance sector which that Department is carrying out in consultation with the Central Bank and other Departments, Agencies and external stakeholders. My Department will continue to engage with the Department of Finance in their ongoing work.

UK Referendum on EU Membership

 265. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the immediate contingency steps she will take following the recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18982/16]

 266. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the immediate contingency steps IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will take following the recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18983/16]

 267. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the immediate contingency steps she will take to safeguard Irish exports and associated jobs following the recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18984/16]

 268. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the immediate contingency steps she will take with respect to trade policy and upcoming trade missions following the recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18985/16]

 269. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the areas and sectors in which the greatest risks are likely to arise and which will need immediate focus when future negotiations begin following the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18986/16]

 270. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the potential impact on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations of the recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18987/16]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor): Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 to 270, inclusive, together.

  The Deputy will be aware that the UK decision will not take effect for some time and that the precise implications of the referendum result will now depend on the period of negotiation ahead, involving the UK and our EU partners.

  As indicated by the Taoiseach in his statement last Friday, the Government has adopted an initial Contingency Framework to map out the key issues that will be most important to Ireland in the coming weeks and months. My own Department has been, and will continue to be, fully engaged in the risk analysis and contingency planning work that is being undertaken at cross-Government level, led by the Department of the Taoiseach.

  Following the announcement of the referendum result on Friday June 24th, as part of my contingency plans, I instituted a Coordination Group consisting of the Chief Executive Officers of both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland and relevant enterprise, single market, and trade officials, to oversee the management of our immediate response and the messaging to businesses both overseas and domestically. I will continue to chair this Group as part my Department’s ongoing response as developments unfold.

  I have asked the agencies to communicate directly with their clients, and, I am aware that in addition to writing to them, there have been multiple contacts since then, between IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland and their respective senior business clients.

  I will continue to meet with the enterprise agencies to lead the co-ordination of our response to challenges as they emerge.

  The UK remains a market opportunity for Irish business, and I am conscious that a decrease in the value and/or the volume of exports to the UK will affect industry, including SMEs and agrifood sector enterprises.

  Enterprise Ireland has already set up a helpline and email address to provide assistance to its clients, and will implement a range of plans to assist Irish exporters. Key measures in this regard include:

  - Provision of information and guidance on the practical implications of a UK exit;

  - Market diversification support; expansion of EI ‘International Sector Clustering Strategy’;

  - Intensification of UK market support to include advice on improving competitiveness, reducing supply chain costs, accessing funding, finance, foreign exchange as well as identification of key business opportunities;

  - Management and financial supports including market access grants to client companies to evaluate new market opportunities.

  In addition, Enterprise Ireland will fine-tune existing support tools (Lean Programmes, Market Diversification, Innovation and Management Development) to address new UK market conditions.

  It is worth noting however, that as a result of determined efforts to assist companies to diversify into new markets, Enterprise Ireland clients have moved in recent years from some 45% of goods & services exports going to the UK, to some 37% in 2015.

  The impact on enterprise and trade in Border counties will also be monitored closely. In this context, the North East/North West Action Plan aims to deliver 28,000 extra jobs in the counties of Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Louth by 2020.

  The Regional Action Plans for Jobs initiative is a concrete example of the targeted approach we are undertaking to boost regional employment. I intend to visit the regions and meet stakeholders to ensure that plans are being implemented in every region, including the Border region.

  IDA Ireland will continue to market Ireland across the globe as the number one location for direct investment, confirming that we are open for business.

  IDA Ireland has a strategic scenario planning team, which in the months leading up to the UK referendum on European membership, engaged with clients and prospective clients in relation to the potential impact of a decision by Britain to leave the European Union. This team continues to work on ensuring that the Agency’s strategy is fit for purpose in light of the recent referendum results in the UK.

  Following the announcement of the results on 24th June, the Chief Executive of IDA Ireland, Martin Shanahan, wrote to the Agency’s 1,200 clients and reassured them that “Ireland is and will remain a member of the European Union (and Eurozone), and retains full access to the European Union market”. Mr. Shanahan re-affirmed IDA Ireland’s strong commitment to working with the existing client base to assist and support them in their growth and expansion in Ireland. His letter also highlighted Ireland’s continued strong offering in relation to talent, ease of doing business, a competitive and transparent taxation regime, English-speaking and, critically, Ireland’s continued access to the EU market.

  Mr. Shanahan has also engaged with international media to highlight that Ireland is very much open for business with full European Union market access.

  Ireland will be working closely with the UK and other EU member States to ensure that any potential disruption to trade and investment is minimised.

  We will continue to support the EU in creating open markets and will endeavour to ensure that our interests are to the fore in future negotiations with the UK. Ireland will continue to make the most effective use of the framework of bilateral trade agreements and multi-sectoral trade agreements that the EU already has in place under the World Trade Organisation, and to support the opening of new markets through the EU. Regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement the EU Council of Trade Ministers at their meeting in May urged the Commission to advance the negotiations, whilst fully respecting its negotiating mandate and the EU interests. While many complex and difficult issues remain to be resolved, both the EU and the US negotiators remain optimistic that a comprehensive and ambitious agreement can be concluded. Ireland’s enterprises are particularly well placed to take up opportunities to trade more easily with the US. This will build on our already rewarding economic relationship.

  I have asked Enterprise Ireland to accelerate the finalisation of their plans for increasing the number of trade missions both within the EU, to include France, Germany and Scandinavia, and to intensify our programme of missions in non-EU markets.

  I am also initiating a review of the overseas footprint of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, to ensure we are fully prepared to support business in finding new markets and investment.

  In tandem, I will be leading a trade mission to the UK in early July, as the UK will remain a key market for Ireland and we need to retain our focus on its potential, even as we seek to diversify to other markets.

  Since taking up my appointment as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, I have already met with my UK ministerial counterparts on trade and on the Single Market (Competitiveness) – Lord Price and Baroness Neville-Rolfe, respectively; and a senior delegation of Trade and Single Market officials from my Department will meet on Friday 1st July, in London with their UK counterparts to review developments.

  I would assure the Deputy that the Government, my Department and the enterprise agencies are fully committed to supporting business in this period of heightened uncertainty; however, we do so against the background of a strong economy and a highly competitive enterprise sector.

Trade Agreements

 271. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the ratification process she envisages for the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18988/16]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor): Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) is a new generation agreement that will remove over 99% of tariffs between the EU and Canada and will create sizeable new market access opportunities in services and investment. It will end limitations in access to public contracts, open-up services market, and offer predictable conditions for investors.

The main benefits for Ireland in this Agreement include the opening up of public procurement markets in the Canadian provinces giving Irish firms increased access to Canadian public sector purchasing. Ireland also gains unlimited tariff free access for most of our important food exports. In addition, Ireland successfully campaigned for a low beef import quota from Canada to the EU thereby safeguarding our important EU market in this area. Irish firms will also benefit from the recognition of product standards and certification, thus saving on ‘double testing’ on both sides of the Atlantic. This is of particular benefit to smaller companies for whom paying twice for the same test can be prohibitive. These are some of the benefits of the trade deal with Canada as well as providing new market opportunities in many sectors for Irish firms.

The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) EU-US agreement is still being negotiated. Like the CETA, it is intended that the EU-US Agreement will cover not only tariffs, services and investment but also include regulatory coherence and cooperation. An EU-US agreement would be the world’s largest bilateral trade and investment deal, and a successful conclusion is expected to benefit Ireland more than any other EU Member State. An independent study commissioned by my Department, carried out by Copenhagen Economics, suggests a boost to GDP of 1.1%, growth in Irish exports of almost 4%, increases in investment of 1.5%, and an increase in real wages of 1.5%. It estimates somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 additional export related jobs could be created. The findings are backed up in an interim independent report contracted by the EU Commission, carried out by Ecorys Consultancy and published on 13th May 2016. The report estimates that an EU-US free trade agreement would boost Irish GDP by 1.4 per cent.

CETA was discussed at the last EU Council of Trade Ministers on 13th May 2016, which I attended. The Council had an exchange of views on the Agreement and the process towards signature and provisional application. I made Ireland’s approach clear, that based on our current assessment of its provisions, that we viewed CETA as a mixed Agreement, in terms of EU and Member State competency. This position was also expressed by other Member States. There are differing views on the legal position on this and the European Commission may be of the view that CETA falls within the competence of the EU only. We will need to wait and see the formal proposal from the Commission and, importantly, the legal basis for this. It will be a matter for the European Council and the European Parliament to decide on the signature and provisional application of CETA. It is expected that the decision making process and ratification process of the EU-US FTA will be similar to the EU-Canada Agreement.

It is in Ireland’s interest to see strong progress towards the implementation of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement and conclusion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as they will provide opportunities for Irish based firms to further diversify their export markets. The issue of growing market share in other markets is made even more important by the result of the recent UK referendum on its membership of the EU.

UK Referendum on EU Membership

 272. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the impact the recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union will have on policy decisions pertaining to sustaining employment levels, national competitiveness levels and wage growth in the short and medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18990/16]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor): Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor On 23rd June the UK voted to leave the European Union. This decision has significant short-term and long term implications for Ireland. Economically, the uncertainty arising from the outcome of this decision in the short term, has resulted in a weakened exchange rate, stock market volatility and lower growth prospects for the UK economy. Due to our close and well established ties with the United Kingdom, the outcome of the referendum has particularly direct consequences for Irish growth and trade prospects.

The economic and political implications and timing of Brexit – and indeed the institutional arrangements between the UK and EU, and between Ireland and the UK are unclear at this juncture. Notwithstanding this considerable uncertainty, the immediate implications for Ireland of the UK leaving the EU are being addressed by Government. The Government has undertaken careful planning in recent months for the contingency of this result, and we will now take this work forward to ensure that we respond appropriately, and that Ireland’s interests are represented fully in the negotiating process. On June 24th we published a contingency plan outlining our whole of Government response.

While there is a lack of clarity as to how the negotiation process will proceed, I will be working to ensure that there is certainty as early as possible on the terms of future trading relationships. The UK will remain an attractive market for many Irish companies, with a population of over 65 million people. I have met with and will continue to engage intensively with our enterprise development and promotional agencies and other stakeholders and representative bodies. They will be working with enterprises to support their adjustment to the new arrangements in due course. Similarly, the UK is the third largest investor in Ireland and I will endeavour to ensure the impact on those relationships is minimised. I, together with the enterprise agencies under my remit, will also ensure that businesses, investors and potential investors in Ireland are fully informed of Ireland’s continued commitment to the EU and of developments as they unfold.

Ireland is ranked first in the eurozone in the 2016 IMD Global Competitiveness Index and it is important that we continue to sustain that position. As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, I consider it vital to retain a sharp focus on maintaining our own competitiveness for trade and investment. In particular in relation to areas such as costs, it is important that we continue to provide a stable macroeconomic environment and public finances during the adjustment period. We need to continue to invest in the areas that will underpin future enterprise growth including in innovation and research, skills and address infrastructure bottlenecks. We need to sustain our core strengths for inward investment namely a strong pool of highly skilled, multilingual workers in the only English-speaking country within the Eurozone. We will continue to provide barrier-free access to an EU market of over 450 million consumers.

Enterprise 2025, Ireland’s National Enterprise Policy, sets out our vision for Ireland to be the best place to succeed in business, delivering sustainable employment and higher standards of living for all. Enterprise 2025 highlighted the importance of sustaining the progress made on diversifying to non-UK markets and we will continue to support enterprises in that regard. We will continue to implement Enterprise 2025 through the Annual Action Plan for Jobs. We will work across government to progress any additional specific measures necessary to sustaining and growing jobs in the 2017 Action Plan for Jobs.

IDA Data

 273. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the number of United Kingdom companies which are IDA Ireland assisted; the number of jobs these firms provide; the proportion of foreign direct investment this represents; if she will revise her timetable for the sale of Allied Irish Banks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19011/16]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor): Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Employment in IDA supported companies from the United Kingdom in 2015 stood at 6,827. This represents 4% of total IDA Ireland client employment of 187,056. Further details are set out in the table.

  The timetable for the sale of Allied Irish Banks falls outside the remit of my Department and is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

  IDA Ireland client companies from Great Britain

Country of Origin 2015Number of Companies Total Employment
United Kingdom 1056,827

Early Childhood Care and Education

 274. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the changes she has made to the schemes applied by her Department whereby from August 2016 a group (details supplied) will not be able to accept infants under two years of age. [18916/16]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department has been in contact with Dublin City Childcare Committee and it is my understanding that the service in question is undergoing expansion for the provision of the second year of the ECCE programme. I understand that the Board of Management conducted a strategic review recently and following this a decision was made that this service would not be in a position to provide services for the under twos. I understand this was a business decision, and as such is a matter for the Board, which is independent of my Department.

  There are a number of changes to Programmes being implemented for the 2016/17 programme year, including the expansion of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme and changes to the Childcare Regulations concerning qualification requirements for those working in the sector.

  The new Childcare Regulations require that all staff working with children in early years services should hold a qualification in early childhood care and education at a minimum of Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) or equivalent. This is in accordance with international best practice.

  In the past, Community Employment participants with no qualifications were used as part of core staff / child ratios. From 31 December, unless these CE participants are in year 3 of their programme and have received their level 5 qualification they cannot be considered as part of core staff ratios but can of course remain as an additional resource to the service. The level 5 requirement will come into effect on 30 June 2016 for newly-registering services and for existing services on 31 December 2016.

  The contract for ECCE has always required that pre-school leaders in ECCE services hold a minimum Level 5 qualification, or equivalent. From 31 December 2016, all pre-school leaders delivering the ECCE programme must hold a minimum Level 6 qualification, or equivalent.

  My Department has long-standing relationships with community/not-for-profit childcare providers, and recognises the important role that this sector has to play in childcare provision. As demand for childcare continues to grow with, for example, the ECCE scheme being set to increase from 67,000 children last year to approximately 127,000 in 2017, it is essential to support both community and private childcare provision to meet the higher standards.

  In relation to the availability of childcare for children under two, my officials have been in contact with Dublin City Childcare Committee and they are available to assist parents to source alternative childcare provision within the area. The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Programme provides funding to childcare services to enable them to provide quality childcare, including to children under two, at reduced rates to disadvantaged and low income working parents. Parents qualify as disadvantaged or low income on the basis of means-tested entitlements. In the case of full day care, parents qualifying for the higher rate of subvention under the CCS Programme can have up to €95 per week deducted from the overall charge for childcare in the participating childcare facility. Traditionally, CCS was only available through community services, but to ensure wider access for families, in 2016 this Programme has been extended to include private providers for the first time, and my Department is working to ensure the availability of places under this Programme.


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