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 Header Item Public Procurement Tenders (Continued)
 Header Item Brexit Preparations

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan] With regard to available guidance, the Deputy has outlined that he is aware of the regulations as set out in the statutory instrument and the law itself. There are provisions of guidance and supports available to contractors in advance of a tender being submitted through the contracting authorities, which will clarify individual issues in advance of the tender being submitted, and through representative organisations. The small and medium enterprise committee within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which I chair, has representative organisations from across the sector and I am sure they will be able to engage with the sector on that.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The derogation was to move away from the standard contracting practice to a two-phase practice, not to deal with the abnormally low contract price that came in. Why was the guidance and law related to the statutory instrument not adhered to and implemented with regard to this project when there was an abnormally low contracting price compared with the other prices tendered for? One of the individuals who sat on the development board and was responsible for that contract was put on the board because of his expertise and knowledge in this area.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, addressed that issue both in the committee and in the House. Where there are issues of abnormally low tenders, the contracting authority, whether a public body or State agency, does not have to accept the tender, and I have outlined the reasons for that. As well as that, once a contract for a tender is awarded, there is a dispute resolution mechanism. There can be issues with the tender after it has been awarded where there needs to be dispute resolution and issues arise that would not have been foreseen. On the issue that the Deputy raises, I am sure that the PwC report that has been charged with looking at all of this will enlighten all of us and the debate in its entirety. I cannot comment on an individual case because, regardless of the contract, it is up to the contracting authority, which is the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, and its parent Department, the Department of Health, which has ultimate responsibility for it.

Brexit Preparations

 41. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if he has consulted the European Commission or other European bodies on the possibility of additional funding as a consequence of Brexit; the extent to which leeway will be given or is available with regard to the expenditure benchmark; if he has had formal discussions with the European Union on the relaxing of state aid rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10677/19]

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath This question relates to what extra supports may be available from Europe for Ireland in the context of Brexit, which we will be discussing all week. This relates to the adverse scenario, a no-deal Brexit. It is to give the Minister an opportunity to update the House on his Department's engagement with the European Commission on what supports may be available to deal with and support the most exposed sectors of the economy.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Making the case for supporting measures at an EU level that recognise where Brexit represents a serious disturbance to the Irish economy is a key pillar of the Government's response to Brexit. I am satisfied that there is a firm understanding at an EU level of the unique and disproportionate impact that Brexit will have on Ireland.

Last March, the Tánaiste met EU budget Commissioner Oettinger when he visited Ireland and discussed with him the negative consequences to the Irish economy resulting from Brexit and the possibility of EU assistance. In November, in its contingency action plan, the Commission confirmed that it would support Ireland in finding solutions addressing the specific challenges of Irish businesses.

Officials at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and its agencies have been working closely with the European Commission and Directorate General for Competition since November 2017 through the Irish-EU technical working group on state aid. Through the mechanism of the technical working group, Ireland has fully utilised the provisions of the state aid framework to enable the investment by Enterprise Ireland of €74 million in Brexit impacted businesses in 2018.

On 24 January 2019, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, met the European Commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager. The focus of the meeting centred around the severe challenges that Irish businesses will face when the UK leaves the EU and the need for appropriate and timely State supports. The Commissioner emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

The Stability and Growth Pact provides flexibility for budgetary requirements in certain circumstances. One such provision relates to unusual events outside of the control of government which have a negative impact on the budgetary position. If the impact of a disorderly Brexit were to be severe, the Government could make a case for an application for the use of the so-called unusual events clause, which permits temporary deviations from our medium-term budgetary objective or the adjustment path towards it. This could facilitate extra spending linked to the disorderly Brexit as long as it does not endanger our medium-term budgetary sustainability.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath It goes without saying that this is a scenario that none of us wants or expects to see happen but it is certainly a possibility. Will the Minister outline to the House any specifics of what European authorities have committed to doing to assist the areas of the economy that will be worst-affected, including farmers, the food sector, agrifood and indigenous manufacturing? We have the Brexit loan scheme which is welcome and is supported by the European Investment Bank. Are there other specifics where commitments have been given where, in the event of a disorderly Brexit, direct and immediate supports are required? Has the nature of those supports been scoped out yet? Do we know what they are and how they will be administered? With only such a short window left, people want to know whether specifics have been agreed, and if so, what they are.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe We will be in a position to agree specifics with the European Commission as soon as we are clear on what the specifics of Brexit look like. At this point the Commission, through many Commissioners, has indicated its support in principle and its firm commitment to supporting Ireland in facing this grave difficulty. It will use the flexibility that is open to it to support us in decisions that we need to make. Commissioner Vestager has already publicly said that the Commission would stand ready to act urgently in mitigation of the impact of Brexit on Irish firms. The fact that she has given that commitment publicly is a strong advance on where we have been previously. Due to the work that the Minister, Deputy Creed, has under way, Commissioner Hogan has reiterated the EU's readiness to respond to support Irish farmers and the Irish agricultural community in particular. We will be in a position to give further specifics on this as soon as we are clear on the nature of the event that we are responding to, if this event happens at the end of March.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The commitment of support from the European Union is to be welcomed. There has been strong solidarity among our European partners on the issue of Brexit, so that should be acknowledged. These words of support from the European Commission and others are important. I assume that in the background the Government has been scoping out and fleshing out what would be asked for in that scenario. We have the commitment of support from Europe on the one hand, but I expect that with what the Government is doing across all the various strands of state aid and direct support for agrifood and indigenous manufacturing, we have worked out precisely what we will be asking for in the event of a no-deal Brexit materialising on 29 March. I welcome what the Minister has said about state aid. An important commitment has been given about flexibility. Will the Minister reassure the House that the Government is finalising what those asks are in the background?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe It is not just what our future asks will be in the event of a disorderly Brexit but also recognition of what we have already done. There has been considerable effort to get ready for Brexit, with the support of this House and the support of the Deputy's party in various budgets. I hope I am not speaking too soon but I think we should not underestimate the amount of co-operation going on to enable the passage of a Brexit omnibus Bill this week.

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