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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 135-163
 Header Item Garda Vetting
 Header Item Data Retention
 Header Item Court Accommodation Refurbishment
 Header Item Garda Youth Diversion Projects
 Header Item Prison Accommodation
 Header Item Prison Security
 Header Item Constitutional Amendments
 Header Item General Data Protection Regulation
 Header Item Garda Recruitment
 Header Item Data Retention
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service Administration
 Header Item Referendum Campaigns
 Header Item Parliamentary Questions Data
 Header Item Forálacha Pinsin
 Header Item IDA Ireland Portfolio
 Header Item Work Permits Applications
 Header Item Consumer Protection
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Parliamentary Questions Data
 Header Item Departmental Correspondence
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation
 Header Item Disabilities Assessments

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 135-163

Garda Vetting

 135. Deputy Lisa Chambers Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the wait time for Garda vetting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52281/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy will appreciate that the primary purpose of the employment vetting carried out by the National Vetting Bureau is to seek to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.  It is carried out by An Garda Síochána primarily in accordance with the provisions of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012-2016 and is, as I am sure you will agree, a very important task which must be done thoroughly and correctly. My Department has no role in the processing of individual vetting applications.

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that the Vetting Bureau works to ensure that the processing time for vetting applications is kept to the minimum necessary in order to ensure that the statutory obligation to receive a vetting disclosure prior to permitting any person to undertake relevant work or activities on behalf of an organisation can be facilitated without undue delay.

All Garda vetting applications are processed on a first-come, first served basis in chronological order from date of receipt. This is with a view to observing equity and fairness in respect of all vetting subjects.

In respect of certain applications, it is necessary for the Vetting Bureau to conduct further enquiries, for example to confirm information provided by the applicant with external bodies. The time required to receive such information may be outside of the control of the Vetting Bureau. In such instances, processing times may be significantly longer than the average.

 In general, the vetting process is working well and I understand that there are no backlogs or delays in Garda Vetting at present.

This efficiency has been achieved by the deployment of the e-vetting system which facilitates the on-line processing of applications for vetting from registered organisations.

 The current turnaround time for vetting applications submitted by organisations utilising the eVetting system is 5 working days for over 85% of applications received.

Individual applicants can track the process of their application online using the eVetting Tracking System, details of which are contained in the email received by applicants when completing their application online.

Data Retention

 136. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan further to Parliamentary Question No. 215 of 12 December 2017, the progress he has made regarding the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2017; if his attention has been drawn to the outcome of a recent High Court case (details supplied) regarding the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52290/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Government approved the revision of existing data retention legislation to take account of evolving ECJ jurisprudence in this area in October 2017.

  Drafting of the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2018 is well advanced and I would expect to publish the Bill in early 2019.  

  I am aware of the recent High Court case to which the Deputy refers. The judgment will be examined by my Department and by the Garda authorities in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General to identify the important points arising and to inform the work that is currently being finalised on reform of the law in this area.

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

 137. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the status of the refurbishment works at the courthouse in Wicklow town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52336/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, a number of developments in relation to Courts Service accommodation requirements are outlined in the Government's recent National Development Plan 2018 - 2027. They include:

- Further new or refurbished courthouses in regional cities and county towns where facilities remain substandard (including Galway City, Wicklow Town , Portlaoise, Tralee and Roscommon) and further provincial locations such as An Clochan Liath (Dungloe) to serve as the Gaeltacht court for the region, and Tuam;

- Regional Family Law Centres;

- A nationwide condition survey of all court buildings in the estate will be undertaken to determine their condition and identify works required in relation to any issues identified and meet ongoing maintenance requirements.

The precise allocation and timing of additional funding over the entire ten year period remains to be fully determined. It will be dependent on the outcome of further detailed planning and analysis of costs which will determine prioritisation of projects from a timing and budgetary perspective.

Furthermore, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that, as part of its provincial capital building programme, one of the objectives is to extend and refurbish the courthouse in Wicklow town to provide a significantly larger 4 courtroom venue together with a range of facilities for staff, the judiciary, persons in custody, jurors, legal professionals, other state agencies and members of the public.

The Courts Service has indicated that while detailed planning or design work has not yet commenced, it has purchased a number of adjacent properties, some of which will be demolished in order to create a larger site capable of accommodating a courthouse building on the scale envisaged. Assistance has been sought from the OPW in this regard and it is hoped that demolition work will proceed in 2019.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects

 138. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the criteria in place for areas to be chosen for the Garda youth diversion projects; his plans to establish the project in Bray and Arklow, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52337/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton As the Deputy may be aware, there are currently two Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) operating in County Wicklow - the New Directions Project, in Bray and the Way Project, in Wicklow town.

At present, there are some 105 GYDPs operating around the country, catering for approximately 4000 young people every year. In general, the location of projects is linked to local needs and the levels of youth crime. The existing network of GYDPs has developed organically over 3 decades and I am committed to ensuring that it continues to develop so that every young person has access to these very valuable programmes, and that they are delivered to the highest standard possible.

During 2018, my Department has engaged in a wide ranging consultation on the future of the Garda Youth Diversion Projects with community stakeholders to inform the preparation of a development programme for GYDPs. It is intended that this will be implemented over a number of years, in partnership with the community-based organisations which run the GYDPs, and An Garda Síochána.

An important aspect of these consultations is the engagement with the young people who participate in GYDPs, including a formal consultation with young people facilitated by the Participation Hub in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

I was delighted to be present at the Annual Conference for GYDPs on 7 November 2018 which provided an important opportunity for engagement with Youth Justice Workers and Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers, as well as some of the young people who participate in local projects. The conference also helped to launch a new Action Research Project (ARP) which will work with some 14 selected GYDPs, to move beyond the testimonial and anecdotal evidence we have that projects work well and provide a good service. The ARP will attempt to capture precisely what specific approaches and interventions work best, document this evidence, and roll the learning from this out across all the projects over a period of years.  I am very pleased that the ARP is being enabled by the support of the REPPP project (Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice), a research partnership involving the Irish Youth Justice Service and the University of Limerick.

All of this work will help to further develop and enhance, over time and as resources allow, the approach to the location of new projects, in Co. Wicklow and elsewhere, within the overarching objective that all young people in need of such a service have access to a project in their area.

Prison Accommodation

 139. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan further to Parliamentary Question No. 189 of 5 December 2018, the reason the unit referred to is not accommodating prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52347/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have been advised by my officials of the Irish Prison Service that plans to place the first prisoner in the National Violence Reduction Unit (NVRU) are nearing completion and the intention is that the new facility will commence operations in the short term. The Deputy will appreciate that the development of the NVRU represents a new departure in the management of violent prisoners.  Preparations to fully harness the two pronged operational and psychological approach have been extensive.

Prison Security

 140. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the status of the report into the circumstances surrounding the escape of a prisoner (details supplied) requested for by his predecessor following the stabbing of two prison officers in Tallaght hospital in February 2018; if the report will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52359/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Director General of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) was asked to provide a full report on all of the circumstances surrounding the escape of the prisoner (details supplied) during a hospital appointment at Tallaght Hospital on 17th February 2015. This report was received in March 2015 and it sets out the security and operational circumstances of the incident and related actions and recommendations.  For operational and security reasons this report will not be published. The Health and Safety Authority also conducted an investigation into this incident under its statutory powers and issued an improvement notice which the IPS has implemented in full.

Subsequent to this incident, the State Claims Agency was asked to conduct a major review of assaults on operational prison staff in Ireland. That review followed a number of violent physical assaults on IPS staff by prisoners, including the incident referred to in the Deputy's question.  The aim of the review was to determine the root cause of the issue, to reflect on the potential for future such occurrences and to make recommendations for improvement.

The review was published in November 2016 and the recommendations are being implemented by the IPS.  One of those recommendations implemented by the IPS was the development of a national escorting standard to improve the security and safety in the conduct of escorts across the prison estate.

Constitutional Amendments

 141. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will expedite consideration of the report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality following pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the 38th Amendment of the Constitutional (Role of Women) Bill; and if a public consultation process will be convened early in 2019 with a view to holding the referendum in 2019. [52360/18]

 147. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the Citizens' Assembly will be requested to consider Article 41.2 of the Constitution. [51799/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 147 together.

  Minister Flanagan and I will consider this Report, which was published on 6 December, and make proposals to Government in due course.

General Data Protection Regulation

 142. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans on section 30 of the Data Protection Act 2018; his plans to amend and commence section 30 by way of legislation and or statutory instrument; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52365/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will be aware from the detailed response which I gave to previous Parliamentary Questions from the Deputy, in particular Questions  623 and 628 on 24 July last, concerning commencement of section 30 of the Data Protection Act 2018, Article 58 of the GDPR already confers a far reaching power on supervisory authorities such as the Data Protection Commission to order controllers and processors to bring processing operations into compliance with the GDPR's provisions, including the standards and safeguards applicable to the processing of children's personal data. 

Moreover, Article 58 also confers powers on the Data Protection Commission to impose a temporary or definitive limitation, including a ban, on such processing and to impose an administrative fine pursuant to Article 83 in the case of infringements. This means that the possibility of imposing significant administrative fines on controllers and processors in cases of unlawful processing of children's personal data, as foreseen in section 30, already exists without the commencement of, or any amendments to, that section.

As regards possible future changes to existing law, the position is that I have asked my Department to keep application of those provisions of the GDPR and the 2018 Act that relate specifically to the protection of children's personal data under review. Since both the GDPR and the 2018 Act entered into force on 25 May last, it is not possible to say at this early stage whether any changes to the law will be required.     

For the Deputy's information, the Data Protection Commission - which acts with complete independence in the performance of its tasks and exercise of its powers - has informed my Department that it will shortly be launching a public consultation on the processing of children’s personal data and the data protection rights of children under the GDPR. This will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to make submissions on issues concerning the processing of children’s personal data, the safeguards and standards applicable to children, and the rights of children as data subjects. The aim of the consultation is to promote increased awareness of children’s data protection issues and to establish appropriate standards of protection across all sectors where children’s personal data are processed.

Garda Recruitment

 143. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan when there will be further graduations of probationer Gardaí from Templemore in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [52384/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility to manage and control generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including by arranging for the recruitment, training and appointment of its members.

  The Commissioner has indicated that there will be three attestations in 2019, most likely in March, June and November, though these dates are provisional.

Data Retention

 144. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the aspects of the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2017 he has incorporated from the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011; if he is satisfied it complies with advice from the European Court of Justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [52385/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 Act already provides for a number of the requirements identified by the European Court of Justice.  The current Act provides that data can only be accessed by specific agencies where the data is required for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of a serious offence, the safeguarding of the security of the State or the saving of human life. Additional safeguards provided for in the legislation to protect the data in question include data security provisions, data destruction provisions and restrictions on access to retained data. The legislation also provides for oversight of its operation by a High Court Judge who reports to the Taoiseach at least annually (with discretion to report more frequently) and for a complaints referee (a Circuit Court judge) to deal with the concerns of any person who believes that their data may have been unlawfully accessed in breach of the Act. These safeguards have been retained in the revised draft legislation.

 The draft Communications (Retention of Data) Bill, which is currently being finalised, will respond to the relevant European Court of Justice rulings –

- by providing for Ministerial authorisation for the retention by service providers of targeted categories of traffic and location data for the purpose of the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of serious crime or safeguarding the security of the State;

- by requiring judicial authorisation for disclosure of retained data to the Garda Síochána and other agencies;

- by providing for the data concerned to be held for a 13 month period and for that data to be held in the EU;

- by providing for notification of persons whose data have been disclosed when such notification is unlikely to jeopardise the investigation of an offence or to undermine the security of the State,

The judgment in a recent High Court case regarding provisions in the 2011 Act will also be examined by my Department and by the Garda authorities in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General to identify the important points arising and to inform the work being finalised  

I am satisfied that this will ensure compliance with the European Court of Justice rulings and I expect that the Bill will be published early in 2019. 

Crime Data

 145. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of detections of financial crime in 2015, 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018, by category; the nature of the crimes detected; the sums of money involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52393/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the information sought by the Deputy and I will contact him directly when the report is to hand.

Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service Administration

 146. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of appointments provided daily through the immigration appointment booking system; if his attention has been drawn to complaints from users that are having difficulty getting appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52406/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As outlined in responses to previous parliamentary questions, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department became aware in September of customers experiencing difficulties booking registration appointments. Some of these difficulties had arisen because third party agents had been able to secure multiple appointments through the use of automatic software. Software upgrades were put in place to minimise this abuse.

The period September to November is the busiest time for registrations with many student registrations in addition to the usual workload of the office. A number of measures have been taken to increase the capacity of the office, including the assignment of additional staff to the Registration Office, overtime and opening the office for registrations on most Saturdays and some Sundays. These measures are aimed at ensuring that as many appointments as possible are made available each day. INIS is continuing these measures at least into December to ensure demand is met.  

There are between 400 - 500 appointments every day in Dublin provided through the online booking system.  

I am also advised that INIS is currently developing a new online appointments system which should be operational late next year. This new system will assist in streamlining and improving the current online booking process. INIS is examining options for renewals of some types of permissions for 2019 and is also developing a new computerised registration system which will enable further options to streamline the registration process to be developed. This is a large ICT project planned to be delivered in 2020.  The overall aim of these measures is to improve customer service and efficiency and so that future demands can be met.

  Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 141.

Referendum Campaigns

 148. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on the involvement of his Department on plans for the forthcoming referendum on divorce in May 2019. [51797/18]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy is aware, the Government has agreed to hold a referendum on divorce together with the European Parliament and local elections in May 2019.

I am currently considering the question of the scope of the amendment on divorce that might be proposed for the referendum. I intend to bring proposals to Government early in the New Year to ensure adequate time for parliamentary and public debate and for the Referendum Commission to be established and begin its work.  In that regard, my Department has considered issues relating to the scope of the amendment that might be proposed, including the various views expressed in the Oireachtas and legal advice.

I believe that it is important to have broad consensus in the Oireachtas for the proposal that will be put to the people. In that regard, I am currently engaging in consultations with parties and political groupings and I hope to conclude these consultations before the Christmas recess.

Parliamentary Questions Data

 149. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of parliamentary questions his Department has processed in the past three years to date; the number of questions answered directly; the number of questions referred to bodies or agencies under the aegis of his Department for direct reply; the number of staff who are assigned to his parliamentary questions section; and if non-departmental staff, advisers and-or public affairs and relations companies have composed parliamentary question replies or had an act or hand in forming parliamentary question replies in the timeframe specified. [52234/18]

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department replied to 1,806 Parliamentary Questions in 2017 and has replied to 1,562 in 2018 to date. A figure for the number of Questions answered in 2016 is not readily available due to the introduction of a new ICT system for PQ administration at the end of 2016.

All Parliamentary Questions submitted to my Department are answered directly and Questions are not referred to bodies or agencies for direct reply. Where necessary input to replies is sought from agencies under the aegis of the Department.

The Secretary General's Office manage the administration of Parliamentary Questions in the Department, in addition to other duties. There are currently three members of staff assigned to the Office (excluding the Secretary General). All Questions received in the Department are forwarded to the relevant Division to prepare replies. Replies are then reviewed by myself and my Special Advisers or the Ministers of State and their Advisers.

No external advisors, public affairs or public relations companies have been involved in the preparation of replies to Parliamentary Questions.

Forálacha Pinsin

 150. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Gnó, Fiontar agus Nuálaíochta Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys cén uair a cheadófar pinsean do dhuine (gonraí tugtha) atá ag fáil pinsean easláine faoi láthair agus a bheidh 66 bliana d’aois ar an 8ú lá de mhí na Nollag agus a bhfuil iarratas déanta aici ar phinsean; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [52271/18]

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Níl aon ról ag mo Roinn in íocaíocht den phinsean Stáit. Is é an t-aon fheidhm atá ag mo Roinn maidir le hinchur íocaíocht shochair na Roinne Gnóthaí Fostaíochta agus Coimirce Shóisialaí is ea sonraí de ranníocaíochtaí ÁSPC íoctha  i rith tréimhse fostaíochta iar fhostaí den Roinn seo nó d’aon cheann dá shlánaonaid mar an Roinn Tionscail agus Tráchtála nó an Roinn Saothair a sholáthar le cur ar chumas na Roinne Gnóthaí Fostaíochta agus Coimirce Shóisialaí  taifid fostaí áirithe ÁSPC a dhaingniú. Tá na taifid seiceáilte ag baill de m’Aonad Pinsin agus ar bhonn na faisnéise atá curtha ar fáil, ní bhfuarthas aon iarratais le haghaidh taifid ÁPSC faoin ainm atá curtha ar fáil. Ba chóir don Teachta an cheist shainiúil sin a chur faoi bhráid an Aire Gnóthaí Fostaíochta agus Coimirce Shóisialaí.

IDA Ireland Portfolio

 151. Deputy Lisa Chambers Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of IDA Ireland facilities being constructed in County Mayo in the past five years; the cost of each facility; the number occupied; and the number vacant. [52276/18]

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The overall outlook for foreign direct investment in Mayo remains positive. There are 16 IDA client companies employing approximately 4,500 people in the County. Mayo has experienced a 26% increase in FDI employment from 2012 to 2017 with job numbers increasing from 3,537 in 2012 to 4,462 at the end of last year. IDA Ireland continues to engage with its existing client base there to support them in growing their business and footprint further.

In the past five years the IDA has constructed one Advanced Technology Building (ATB) in Mayo, located in Castlebar, at a cost of €4m. The building is complete and the Agency is actively marketing the facility to potential investors through its offices in Ireland and abroad.

Work Permits Applications

 152. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of an application by a person (details supplied) for a work permit. [52287/18]

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Employment Permits section of my Department inform me that an application for a General Employment Permit for the person concerned was received on 8 July 2018.

  On 22 November 2018, the application was refused as it appeared that the applicant had not provided evidence that the Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT) had been carried out in the manner prescribed under the Employment Permits Act 2006 as amended. 

  In order to satisfy the LMNT an applicant must advertise the vacancy:

  - with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Employment Services/EURES employment network for at least 2 weeks;

  - in a national newspaper for at least 3 days; and

  - in either a local newspaper or jobs website (separate to Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection/EURES websites) for 3 days.

  The advertisements must include the following information:

  - a description of the employment;

  - the name of the employer;

  - the minimum annual remuneration;

  - the location/s of employment; and

  - the hours of work.

  The applicant was notified of this decision in writing and of their right to request a review of this decision within 28 days, in line with the provisions of the Employment Permits Acts.  I am informed that no request for a review was received from the applicant or their authorised agent.

  A refusal to grant an employment permit does not preclude an applicant from submitting another application for an employment permit.  Such an application should comply with all of the legislative requirements for the particular employment permit type.

Consumer Protection

 153. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if an organisation (details supplied) has applied for prescriber status under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 in order to take action against denture manufacturers that illegally provide directly to the public and other unregistered, unregulated practitioners; if so, when the application was received; if it has been approved; when it will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52409/18]

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Section 71 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 deals with court orders prohibiting a trader from committing or engaging in an act or practice prohibited under the Act. Section 71(2) provides among other things that a public body prescribed for the purposes of the subsection may apply to the Circuit Court or High Court for such an order. "Prescribed" is defined in section 2 of the Act to mean "prescribed by regulations made by" the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The Act does not specify however the criteria to be taken into account by the Minister in considering a request from a public body to be prescribed for the purposes of section 71(2). The public body referred to in the details supplied by the Deputy wrote to me in December 2017 requesting that it be prescribed for the purposes of section 71(2), the first such request by a public body since the enactment of the Act in 2007. A reply issued from my office in January 2018 stating that, while I was open in principle to the request, discussions should be held at official level on a number of issues before any final decision could be taken. An official of my Department met with representatives of the public body in May 2018 and sought information on a number of matters, including details of the number and type of cases in which a court order might be sought, the other enforcement options available to the body to address practices of concern to it, a range of issues relating to the procedure for applying for a court order under the section, and the importance of close cooperation with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The latter is of particular importance as, in addition to the fact, first, that cases in which a court order is sought by a prescribed body could also be the subject of criminal proceedings initiated by the Commission. Secondly, section 71(5) of the Act provides that where an application for a court order under the section is made by a party other than the Commission, the court may not make the order unless the Commission has been afforded an opportunity to be heard and adduce evidence.  I have considered the various issues raised by the request for prescribed status by the public body in question and am satisfied that according it this status would be appropriate. I propose accordingly to submit a draft statutory instrument to this effect to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in the near future.

Brexit Issues

 154. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her attention has been drawn to the percentage of companies that export to Britain that will be Brexit ready by 29 March 2019. [52122/18]

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the primary providers of supports to assist enterprises within the indigenous sector that are facing challenges arising from Brexit. They are working vigorously to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK and to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets.

The UK is the leading export destination for Enterprise Ireland supported companies and is the first export destination for many companies. Despite this, Enterprise Ireland supported companies are increasingly diversifying their global footprint beyond the UK. The proportion of our exports going to the UK has reduced by 10% over the last ten years, reflecting the success that Irish companies are having in substantially increasing and broadening their exports to other international markets.

Enterprise Ireland offers a range of activities and supports for client companies throughout the country to innovate and remain competitive in international markets and is working with its clients to ensure they are resilient to economic shocks, such as Brexit.

As part of Enterprise Ireland’s response to Brexit, the agency launched the following two supports to drive Brexit awareness and preparedness:

- Brexit Scorecard: This interactive online platform can be used by all Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit under six business pillars. Based on answers supplied by the user, the Scorecard generates an immediate report which contains suggested actions and resources, and information on events for companies to attend, to prepare for Brexit.

- Be Prepared Grant: This grant offers SMEs a grant of up to €5,000 to assist them in preparing an action plan for economic shocks such as Brexit. The grant can be used to help cover consultancy, travel and travel expenses associated with researching the direction of their action plan. For example, this might involve investigating the feasibility of diversifying into new markets and market segments; investment in innovation; improvement in operational competitiveness; and/or enhancement of strategic financial capability.

In terms of effectiveness of the supports, a recent survey of 2,400 Enterprise Ireland clients found that 85% of them are taking Brexit-related actions. This is a positive indication that companies are undertaking Brexit preparedness actions.

Working closely with Enterprise Ireland’s global network, the agency will continue to support its client companies plan, innovate, compete and diversify their exports in order to support companies navigate the challenges and opportunities posed by Brexit.   In this regard, Enterprise Ireland’s new customs training and the planned LEOs customs training will help to demystify customs procedures for both exporting and importing companies.  In addition, Enterprise Ireland and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade regional advisory clinics have been held around the country to assist companies prepare for Brexit.

Brexit Issues

 155. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the contingency plans for companies if sterling falls by 3% or more. [52123/18]

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department is carrying out extensive work to prepare for all Brexit eventualities. Informed by detailed research, my Department has been putting in place a package of measures that will allow us to respond to the needs of businesses affected by Brexit.

A notified Rescue and Restructuring (R&R) scheme was approved by the Commission in late November 2017.  Under the 10 million euro scheme, which will run until 2020, Enterprise Ireland can provide restructuring support to SMEs in severe financial difficulties. 

The R&R scheme was extended in May 2018 to include temporary restructuring aid for enterprises facing acute liquidity needs.  This provides a further 10 million euro of State support and is in addition to the original 10 million euro under the R&R scheme.   Restructuring aid under this scheme is in the form of direct grants or equity support.   It is important to have stabilisation measures such as these schemes in place in the event that they become needed. However, there is  whole suite of supports in place that enterprises can avail of to mitigate the impact of Brexit uncertainty.  

The Brexit Loan Scheme, launched in March of this year and operated by the SBCI, offers affordable working capital to eligible SMEs that are either currently impacted by Brexit or which will be in the future.  Funding granted under the scheme must be used to innovate, change or adapt to meet the challenges posed by Brexit.  The Future Growth Loan Scheme announced in Budget 2019, will provide loans for terms of up to 10 years for eligible businesses to invest in a post-Brexit environment.

To assist businesses in responding to Brexit, Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-assess their exposure to Brexit and a “Be Prepared Grant” to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit.  It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK.

Local Enterprise Office funding has been increased by 22%, and this increase is being used to assist micro-enterprises in becoming more competitive and better able to cope with the changing environment in which they are operating.  The suite of LEO Brexit supports includes tailored mentoring to address Brexit-related business challenges and targeted training on specific Brexit issues.

Advisory supports in relation to business planning, such as those provided by the Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland, will be particularly important in assisting viable-but-vulnerable SMEs that may be adversely affected due to Brexit.  These supports will help raise awareness of both private market financial supports and existing State supports.

As part of awareness-raising activities, EI has been rolling out regional Brexit Advisory clinics throughout the year. To date, clinics have been held in Letterkenny, Tralee, Portlaoise, Claremorris, Cootehill, Charleville, Dublin, Galway, Dundalk, Waterford and most recently Limerick. A Brexit two-day external consultancy support is also being rolled out to individual clients to help them develop a detailed sustainable growth plan.  DBEI and its agencies have also participated in the Government’s “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” events. These events have so far taken place in Cork, Galway, Monaghan, Dublin, Limerick and Donegal.

With regard to currency management specifically, my Department has published a guide for  SMEs on currency risk management, which has been developed in collaboration with Pricewaterhouse Coopers and is available on my Department's website.

Parliamentary Questions Data

 156. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of parliamentary questions his Department has processed in the past three years to date; the number of questions answered directly; the number of questions referred to bodies or agencies under the aegis of his Department for direct reply; the number of staff who are assigned to his parliamentary questions section; and if non-departmental staff, advisers and-or public affairs and relations companies have composed parliamentary question replies or had an act or hand in forming parliamentary question replies in the timeframe specified. [52243/18]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The statistical information requested by the Deputy is presented in the following table. The four staff of the Secretary General's Office staff allocate PQs and return replies to the Oireachtas. All departmental staff are involved in the preparation of PQ replies.  Ministerial Advisors in the Department are involved in reviewing prepared replies.  There is no role for public affairs and relations companies in the PQ process.

Year Total PQs  Answered Referred
2018 to date 10,553 3,410 7,143 
2017 11,318 3,391  7,927 
2016 07,189 2,109  5,080

Departmental Correspondence

 157. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris when an independent expert will be appointed to examine a matter (details supplied); the terms of reference of the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52252/18]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Correspondence has recently been received in relation to the issue to which the Deputy refers and this is currently being examined by my Department.

Commencement of Legislation

 158. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 is reliant on enactment of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017 [52253/18]

 176. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris when the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018 and the general scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017 will be enacted and commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52304/18]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 176 together.

The commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 is not reliant of the enactment of the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) legislation. 

The Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018 was enacted on 24 July 2018. This Act was introduced to correct typographical and technical errors in the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which will facilitate the subsequent commencement of Parts 2 & 3 of the Act. Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 contain provisions relating to the regulation of donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR) procedures carried out in the State, including dealing with the rights of children born as a result of those procedures. There are important administrative and operational arrangements to be put in place to facilitate the implementation of Parts 2 & 3, including the establishment of the National Donor-Conceived Person Register and the appointment of authorised persons under the Act. It is my intention that Parts 2 & 3 of the Act will be commenced as soon as possible. 

The Government approved the drafting of a Bill on AHR and associated areas of research in October last year. The General Scheme is published on my Department’s website. The Joint Committee on Health is currently conducting a review of the General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017 as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, which began in January of this year. The review is on-going, and the Committee intends to publish its report early in 2019.

The introduction of legislation in relation to AHR and associated research is a priority for me and the process of drafting this Bill will be completed in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General. As part of this process my officials will ensure that there is coherent interaction between the AHR Bill and Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. However, it is not possible at this time to give a definitive timeline for the completion of the draft Bill and its subsequent passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Disabilities Assessments

 159. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the reason there are staff shortages in the offices of the National Disability Complaints Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52260/18]

 160. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if his attention has been drawn to the fact that parents of children who have exceeded the waiting times for disability assessment in the south Lee area of County Cork are receiving letters from the HSE stating that due to staff shortages there is a considerable delay in responding to complaints; his views on whether this is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52261/18]

 161. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the HSE has undertaken an investigation into the reason assessments for disability are longer in the south Lee area of County Cork; if the service providers provide private assessments on the same site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52262/18]

 162. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans to address the long waiting times for disability assessments in the south Lee area of County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52263/18]

 163. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a waiting list regarding complaints on delays in disability assessments in the south Lee area of County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52264/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 to 163, inclusive, together.

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.


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