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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 8-32
 Header Item Energy Conservation
 Header Item Workplace Safety
 Header Item Trading Online Voucher Scheme
 Header Item Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Economic Competitiveness
 Header Item IDA Ireland
 Header Item IDA Ireland
 Header Item Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Construction Contracts
 Header Item Construction Contracts
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Brexit Supports
 Header Item Work Permits
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Redundancy Payments
 Header Item Company Law

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 101 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 8-32

Energy Conservation

 8. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if regulations can be introduced to ensure the presence of doors on supermarket fridges in order to reduce the amount of energy required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44868/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The regulation of supermarket fridges falls under EU Regulation, namely Regulation (EU) 2019/2024 of 1 October 2019, laying down ecodesign requirements for refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function, and Regulation (EU) 2019/2018 with regard to energy labelling of refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function.

The Regulations apply to refrigerators with direct sales functions that will be placed on the market across the EU after March 1, 2021, setting minimum requirements for energy efficiency, and ensuring that accurate information is available regarding energy efficiency to those purchasing such appliances. The regulations are technology neutral: they do not specify the technology needed to achieve the design technical specifications. This approach is taken so as not to inhibit innovation. While the installation of doors/curtains can indeed make these products more efficient, it is not specifically stated in the Regulation that they need to be used to achieve the requirement but in many instances, manufacturers will have doors to comply with the Regulation, if it is not already the case. Over time, supermarkets will replace their stock of refrigerators and the incentive to update to more eco-friendly fridges will increase as the carbon tax increases energy costs.

Regulation (EU) 2019/2024 also provides that manufacturers, importers or authorised representatives of refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function make available spare parts for doors (e.g. door handles) to professional repairers and end-users to ensure that fridge energy consumption is minimised throughout the life time of the fridge. The combination of the saving generated by the more energy efficient new generation of fridges and pressure from customers will ensure that supermarkets rapidly replace the fridges that have no doors. Compliance of fridges with the new regulation will be the responsibility of DECC, supported by SEAI enabled by SI 2020/625.

Workplace Safety

 9. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when he plans to ratify the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the Workplace. [44887/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The ratification of ILO Convention C190 is a matter of priority for Ireland and we continue to work towards being amongst the first ILO member States to ratify, with plans to progress the ratification this year. 

The issue of ratification by Ireland of International Labour Organisation Convention 190, Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, is being considered in the context of our standard approach to the ratification of international instruments. Ireland does not ratify international conventions until it has been determined that national law is in line with the provisions of the international instrument.   

Convention 190 is the first ever international instrument on the very important issues of eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work. Ireland already has very strong protections in law to combat violence and harassment in the world of work and has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).  

My officials are engaging with relevant Departments and offices to establish the extent to which domestic legislative provisions already provide for the rights and entitlements enunciated in the Convention, as well as legislative amendments, if any, that may be required to enable ratification.   

As part of that process, my officials will undertake a stakeholder consultation with the social partners and other interested parties.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme

 10. Deputy Chris Andrews Information on Chris Andrews Zoom on Chris Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the timeline for the payment of the online trading vouchers scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44892/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Trading Online Voucher Scheme (TOVS) was designed to encourage and support small and micro-businesses in Ireland to trade online.

This scheme was developed by the (now) Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) as part of the National Digital Strategy. This Strategy set out a vision and practical actions and steps to encourage and assist more citizens and small businesses to get online.

The original focus of the scheme was targeted at small and micro enterprises that were considered to be at risk of being left behind by the digital divide. The scheme was designed to be a catalyst for a change in behaviour of small business towards trading online.  As such, it was envisaged that the scheme would not support all business, but rather encourage a sufficient number to make the transition which, in turn, would drive an organic demand from the remaining businesses.

At the beginning of 2020 applicants had 9 months to complete their project. Lockdown restrictions in March 2020 highlighted the necessity of businesses having online trading capacity to generate sales resulting in a significant increase in the number of applications received by the Local Enterprise Offices. From 8 June 2020 new successful applicants had 4 months to complete their project. This condition pertained until the end of 2020.

The scheme was transferred to my Department which will operate the Trading Online Voucher scheme for 2021 and subsequent years in line with the terms and conditions and eligibility requirements. The claim period for a Trading Online Voucher has been increased to 6 months as of January 1 2021.

Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

 11. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position regarding the future investment loan scheme of a bank (details supplied); if there will be future rounds of loans under this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45070/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Future Growth Loan Scheme was established in April 2019 for SMEs and small midcaps (up to 499 employees) seeking access to finance for long-term strategic investment. It is delivered by the SBCI through participating finance providers on behalf of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

  From launch, €300m in lending was made available through the scheme. However, in response to the high demand, the scheme was expanded in July of 2020 by a further €500m in lending to help businesses in responding to the challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit.

  Two of the participating finance providers (AIB and Bank of Ireland) in the scheme have currently suspended new loan applications while they process a significant pipeline of existing applications. However, businesses can still currently apply for lending with other participating providers (KBC, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank).

As of December 24th   2020, there had been 2,742 businesses approved for lending under the Future Growth Loan Scheme for a total value of €554.6m in loan approvals. There is still a very significant amount of lending capacity remaining in the scheme to help SMEs that are looking to access finance to facilitate strategic investment. I encourage businesses interested in the scheme to approach the lenders that are currently accepting new applications. I would also encourage businesses to regularly monitor the SBCI website, https://sbci.gov.ie/, for updates on the cohort of lenders participating in the scheme and those that are open for new applications.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 12. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the protocols for employers to insist that employees work from home throughout the various levels of restrictions in place throughout the Covid-19 pandemic; if fines are in place for businesses found to be bringing employees into the workplace if they are not meant to; if the Health and Safety Authority has enforcement powers under these protocols; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45116/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Government’s Living with COVID-19 Plan recognises the need for an overall incremental approach which take account of the societal and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the varying responses required at different times. The Plan sets out how businesses should operate at five different levels. The Country is, at present, at Level 5 and within Level 5 people should work from home unless it is absolutely necessary to attend in person.

  All employees should work from home unless essential for work, which is an essential health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home.

  I would stress, however, that, at this particular critical juncture, given the seriousness of the overall situation with COVID-19 cases across the Community and the resulting pressure on our hospital systems, it is vital that employers make provision for employees to work from home unless they are delivering an essential service as listed on www.gov.ie and cannot work for home.

  As the Deputy may be aware, I issued a statement last week underlining the seriousness of this issue.

  While an employer is responsible, in the first instance, for determining what work can be done remotely, employers must bear in mind that the overarching public health advice is that employees should work remotely.

  Employers and workers should seek to resolve any matters relating to remote working at a local level through mutual dialogue and engagement. Where this is not possible a dispute may be referred to the State's workplace relations services for mediation or conciliation. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is providing services on both a face to face and virtual basis. Advice can be obtained from the Information & Customer Service of the WRC at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 or 059 9178990 or from its website www.wrc.ie.

  The Health and Safety Authority has produced a detailed guidance for both employers and employees in relation to home-working on a temporary basis during COVID-19 restrictions. This guidance will help employers to understand the requirements, and steps to take, when setting up working-from-home arrangements for employees from a health and safety perspective. The guidance is available on-line at www.hsa.ie

  While the Health and Safety Authority has no role in determining which employees can work from home or not, it carries out, along with a number of other State Agencies, compliance inspections with the Work Safely Protocol. Where non-compliance with the Protocol is discovered the HSA can use various mechanisms at its disposal to ensure that the necessary measures are put in place.

  Any worker with concerns about health and safety standards at their place of work can contact the Health and Safety Authority’s Workplace Contact Unit (WCU) for detailed advice including advice on compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. The WCU can be contacted by phone at Lo-call 1890289389 (landline) or (01) 6147000 or by email at wcu@hsa.ie.

  I would also like to highlight the fact that there is a wide range of Government supports available to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Full details on financial supports, training and guidance are available on my Department’s website www.enterprise.gov.ie

Covid-19 Pandemic

 13. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to reimburse couples who have lost deposits and incurred other costs due to Covid-19 restrictions for weddings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1054/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There are no plans for the Government to reimburse couples arising from contracts that were privately entered into with wedding suppliers. The restrictions introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19 have led to the cancellation or deferral of many events and services, including weddings. In many cases where it is not possible to proceed with a wedding due to these restrictions, the couple will be able to agree on an alternative date and the question of a refund will not arise. 

  Whether a couple are entitled to a refund of their deposit where it is not possible to reschedule the wedding will depend in the first instance on the terms and conditions of their contract.  Couples who find themselves in this situation should first check the terms and conditions of their contract and, in particular, the terms relating to cancellations and the refund of deposits and other prepayments. If a term of the contract provides for the refund of deposits in the event of a cancellation, the business may not subsequently change that term without the consumer’s agreement.  While I fully appreciate that businesses are facing severe financial pressures at present, they should deal fairly with consumers who find it necessary to cancel contracts for weddings and are seeking a refund of their deposits. 

  The terms of standard form contracts of the kind that typically govern weddings are subject to assessment for unfairness under the Regulations on unfair terms in consumer contracts.  The aim of the Regulations is to protect consumers against the abuse of power by sellers and suppliers, in particular by means of one-sided contract terms. The Regulations provide for example that among the terms that may be regarded as unfair are terms that permit sellers or suppliers to retain sums paid by the consumer where the latter decides not to perform the contract without providing for the consumer to receive compensation of an equivalent amount from the seller or supplier where the latter is the party cancelling the contract. 

  The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of the Regulations on the control of unfair terms in standard form consumer contracts. Information on matters relating to consumer contracts, including on cancellations and refunds for weddings and other contracts, can be accessed on the CCPC website at https://www.ccpc.ie/consumers/covid-19/consumer-contracts/ .

  The enormous disruption to commercial activity caused by Covid-19 has thrown up many difficult situations for consumers and businesses. If current consumer law proves not to have provided adequate protection for consumers in these situations, I will consider and, where justified, bring forward proposals to strengthen that law where I can do so without contravening EU consumer protection legislation. In the next couple of months, I intend to bring forward proposals for a comprehensive, consolidated Consumer Rights Bill that will set out rights and remedies for consumer contracts for goods, services, and digital content and will include proposals to strengthen the existing provisions on unfair terms in consumer contracts. This Bill will provide an opportunity to address any gaps in consumer protection revealed by the application by businesses of the terms of consumer contracts in cases arising from Covid-19.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 14. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some construction sites are operating with thousands of workers a day; the steps he is taking to ensure compliance with Covid-19 regulations in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1287/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Work Safely Protocol set out the procedures and processes to be undertaken to ensure the safe operation of workplaces in the context of COVID-19. The Protocol is applicable to all places of work, including construction sites, whether or not these construction sites are large sites or relatively small ones. 

The Health and Safety Authority is the lead Agency in relation to checking compliance with the Protocol. From 18 May 2020 to 31 December 2020 the Health and Safety Authority carried out over 2,200   inspections in the construction sector which addressed compliance with the Protocol. Inspections were carried out on a range of small to very large construction projects including projects with over 1000 employees.

  The level of compliance found within the construction sector during this period has been very good and in line with the generally high level of compliance with Work Safely Protocol across all sectors. This is a positive indication that the majority of employers and employees are taking a responsible and proactive approach to compliance with the Protocol.

  Levels of compliance in the Construction Sector:

- 88%   of workplaces had COVID-19 measures in place.

- 80%   of workplaces had COVID-19 Response plans in place.

- 76%   of workplaces had a Lead Worker Rep.

  The Health and Safety Authority also continues to provide advice and support to employers and employees on how best to implement COVID-19 measures in the workplace through its helpline and website. It has also developed checklists and templates for use by employers, workers and worker representatives and further material is being developed. 

  In addition to the public health measures set out in the Protocol the existing Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations set out detailed measures specific to health and safety on construction sites and are designed to provide the same level of protection, responsibilities and obligations irrespective of numbers at work on the construction site.

As the Deputy will be aware, since Friday 8 January, and until the 1   February, all non-essential construction work has ceased with some exceptions such as construction work on essential health projects, social housing projects, housing adaptation grant work, repair, maintenance and construction of critical transport and utility infrastructure as well as education facilities sites designated as essential by the Department of Education.

  The Health and Safety Authority will continue to carry out inspections of any construction sites which are allowed to operate throughout the current Level 5 restrictions.

Economic Competitiveness

 15. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which international call centres are required in Ireland; the degree to which competition from other jurisdictions has affected location here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1888/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Customer Experience industry is an important sector and a significant employer in Ireland. In recent years it has evolved from traditional call centres to language and technology-based customer interaction and customer experience centres. In 2019, it was estimated that approximately 56,000 people were employed in this sector.

The availability of a highly-skilled, mobile workforce, a low-risk environment and access to multilingual talent, both locally and from across the globe, has made Ireland an attractive location for customer experience and support activities. Ireland’s customer experience companies serve key markets in Ireland, the UK, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the US and Canada. Increasingly, newer markets in Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America are being served.

Every job created in Ireland is hard won against increasing competition from a growing number of potential locations. Investors in this sector seek skilled employees, international connectivity, energy infrastructure, telecommunications and services infrastructure. In 2019, IDA Ireland, along with Enterprise Ireland and the Customer Contact Management Association, published a transformation strategy for the sector. That strategy cited technology adoption, people change and services transformation as key areas of focus for the sector to remain competitive against international competition.

IDA Ireland will work with its existing client base to assist and support their growth and expansion in Ireland and will continue to highlight Ireland’s strong value proposition to prospective overseas investors to attract mobile foreign investment.

IDA Ireland

 16. Deputy Noel Grealish Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to secure enterprise for the west side of Galway city, particularly the IDA Ireland zoned lands in Knocknacarra, Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44668/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The provision of property solutions is a key element in IDA’s marketing of Galway and the West Region.  The IDA actively promotes available buildings and land in IDA Business Parks and high-quality buildings in private ownership through our network of overseas offices. IDA Ireland does not own any land in Knocknacarra.  I am advised that IDA Ireland are aware of, and familiar with, privately owned industrial zoned lands available in Knocknacarra and will continue to market these lands to potential investors.

In Galway, IDA Ireland has invested significantly in the provision of world-class property solutions and has invested in several Business and Technology parks in Galway City and County, for example, Parkmore, Oranmore, Ballinasloe, Tuam and Loughrea and has purchased land for future strategic development in Athenry.  In relation to suitable building solutions for FDI, IDA Ireland partners with the private sector and there are several available properties in Galway.

There are 120 IDA supported companies in the West Region, employing 27,695 people in total.  There are 93 IDA supported companies in Galway City and County, employing 21,428 in total.  This is an increase in employment of 3% on the previous year.

There have been some recent significant investments and announcements by IDA supported companies in Galway, specifically:

On 6 January 2021 Genesys, a global leader in cloud customer experience and contact centre solutions, announced it is creating 100 new software roles in Ireland. The company’s R&D Centre for Digital and artificial intelligence (AI) in Galway is a key driver of technology innovation for Genesys as it works to transform the way brands and people connect in a digital-first world.

In November 2020 Diligent Corporation, a leading modern governance company, announced that it is establishing its European hub in Galway. Diligent plans to create more than 200 local jobs in Galway across several business functions, including customer support, customer success, finance, product, HR and marketing.

In July 2020 Globalization Partners, which simplifies global business by enabling companies to hire and retain team members in 180+ countries without the complexity of setting up international branch offices or subsidiaries, announced plans to hire 25 technology positions in Galway. These newly created positions include software engineers, technology leads, help centre support, DevOps engineers, UI/UX designers and many others located in the company’s Galway centre of operations. 

In June 2020 Triggerfish, the animation studio behind Netflix’s first original animated TV series from Africa, announced it is to establish its first international studio in Galway. Founded in 1996, Triggerfish was instrumental in the birth of the South African animation industry, co-founding the country’s official animation association as well as an ongoing monthly screening and networking event. The project is expected to create 60 new jobs over the next three years.

Looking to the future, IDA Ireland will continue to draw the attention of multinationals looking to invest or expand in County Galway.  The IDA continues to engage with key stakeholders on the ground in Galway including the local authorities, the education sector, Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) and both overseas and indigenous companies with a view to generating new employment opportunities. 

Regional development is at the centre of IDA’s new strategy, "Driving Recovery & Sustainable Growth 2021-2024".  IDA Ireland is committed to the pursuit of balanced, compact regional development which can deliver complementary efficiency and equity gains, with the overall impact of helping to advance national development. IDA will target half of all investments (400) from 2021- 2024 to regional locations and maintain the same high level of investment as targeted in IDA’s previous strategy for each region of the country. I look forward to working closely with the IDA on the completion of this new strategy to guide the Agency's work in the time ahead.

IDA Ireland

 17. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar further to his meeting with the west regional enterprise plan steering committee of 11 December 2020, the plans of IDA Ireland to acquire the 50 acres of industrial lands in Ballinasloe, County Galway from the HSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44689/20]

 18. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar further to his meeting with the west regional enterprise plan steering committee of 11 December 2020, the plans of IDA Ireland to construct an advance factory on the under-utilised industrial lands in Ballinasloe, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44690/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 18 together.

There are 120 IDA supported companies in the West Region, employing 27,695 people in total. There are 93 IDA supported companies in Galway City and County, employing 21,428 in total. This is an increase in employment of 3% on the previous year. Ballinasloe is marketed as part of the West Region. This provides scale and scope, which gives confidence to the investor that they will be able to establish themselves outside of a main city area and manage to secure talent and services to make their business work.

IDA positions the West Region as home to the leading cluster of Life Sciences industries employing the highest per capita of Medical Technology staff in Europe (Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Hollister and Baxter and also Surmodics, which is located in Ballinasloe). These international brands are an attraction for additional companies to potentially locate to the West Region, including Ballinasloe.

The provision of property solutions is a key element in IDA’s marketing of Galway and the West Region. IDA actively promotes available buildings and land in IDA Business Parks and high-quality buildings in private ownership through our network of overseas offices.

IDA continues to market the available lands (c.22 acres) on the IDA business & technology park in Ballinasloe to potential investors, including the advanced planning permission for an Advanced Technology Unit on these lands (adjacent to Aptar Ballinasloe). IDA and Ballinasloe Area Community Development (BACD) completed a joint venture to secure planning for an Advance Technology Unit

(ATU). The availability of the ATU planning permission is being marketed by IDA as a planning de-risked and flexible potential property solution. I am advised that IDA does not intend to acquire the 50 acres of industrial lands in Ballinasloe, County Galway from the HSE. IDA keeps its property portfolio under constant review.

Regional development is at the centre of IDA’s new strategy, Driving Recovery & Sustainable Growth 2021-2024. IDA is committed to the pursuit of more balanced, compact regional development which can deliver complementary efficiency and equity gains, with the overall impact of helping to advance national development. IDA will target half of all investments (400) from 2021- 2024 to regional locations and maintain the same high level of investment as targeted in IDA’s previous strategy for each region of the country.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

 19. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position regarding the investor-state-dispute-settlement mechanism of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada in view of the recent ECJ ruling on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44728/20]

 20. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the projected economic impact of the State ratifying the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44729/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 20 together.

  The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, commonly known as CETA, is one of the EU’s new generation of progressive free trade agreements. CETA is designed to benefit EU and Canadian companies through improved trade flows in support of increased employment for our citizens. The elimination of tariffs, reduced trade barriers and simplified customs procedures that flow from CETA all make it easier and cheaper for Irish companies of all sizes to export to Canada and vice versa. Outside of Europe, the US and China, Canada is our largest indigenous export market with more than 400 Enterprise Ireland clients doing business in the Canadian market employing over 6,000 people.

  Diversifying trade is an important part of our Brexit response and it will be an important factor in our recovery post-pandemic. To this end, the best way to achieve export growth and market diversification is by improving market access and reducing costs of entering those markets which is what CETA is designed to achieve. Given our historic ties with Canada, Ireland’s enterprises are particularly well placed to benefit from CETA.

  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;

  unlimited tariff-free access for most of our important food exports;

  a low beef import quota from Canada to the EU thereby safeguarding our important EU market in this area; and

  the recognition of product standards and certification, saving on ‘double testing’ on both sides of the Atlantic.

  Furthermore, the benefits and opportunities to business in the Agreement will be especially valuable for SMEs, given that trade barriers tend to disproportionately burden smaller firms, which have fewer resources to overcome them than larger firms. Indeed, CETA contains an entire chapter exclusively dedicated to SMEs aimed at ensuring they can take full advantage of the improved market access.

  In services and investment, CETA is the most far-reaching agreement the EU has ever concluded. Almost half of the benefits anticipated from CETA are expected in the services sector where CETA makes it easier for EU individuals and companies to provide services to Canadian customers and vice versa. It covers services such as legal, accountancy, transport and telecoms and there are significant opportunities for Ireland given its strengths in services, with services exports accounting for approximately 60% of all exports in 2019.

  CETA has provisionally applied across the EU since the 21st September 2017 which has allowed us to see the practical benefits of this Agreement. Exports of Irish goods and services to Canada totalled approximately €3.9 billion in 2019 a 35% increase compared to 2016, the last full year, prior to the provisional application of CETA. Furthermore, the cost of service barriers to trade will, on average, be reduced under CETA by 10 per cent in Canada and by 4 per cent in the EU. The benefits and opportunities to business in the removal of non-tariff barriers to trade (NTBs) - in areas such as regulatory co-operation, trade facilitation measures, streamlined administration etc., will directly benefit Irish consumers.

  To date, 15 Member States have signalled to the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union the completion of their respective national ratification procedures while several other Member States are currently progressing approval of the Agreement. Ireland, like many Member States, was awaiting the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) regarding the compatibility of CETA with EU law prior to our commencing the formal ratification process for Ireland.

  The Opinion of the Court in Case 1/17 was issued on 30th April 2019 and held that the dispute settlement mechanism in CETA is compatible with EU law and complies with (i) the principle of autonomy of EU law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the CJEU for the interpretation of EU law, (ii) the principle of autonomy of EU law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the CJEU for the interpretation of EU law, and (iii) the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in particular of the right of access to a court and right to an independent and impartial tribunal under the Charter. The Opinion of the CJEU, allowed Member States to proceed with domestic ratification, according to the requirements of their national law.

  International trade agreements are not part of domestic law so this is why separate adjudication arrangements are required in the event of disputes under the Agreement. All international trade agreements have dispute resolution arrangements. Moreover, where such agreements cover investment rules and protections, then there must be a dispute resolution mechanism that covers investments e.g. Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

  ISDS which has been in existence since the 1950s, enables overseas investors to resolve disputes with the government of the country where their investment is made through binding international arbitration. ISDS has been included in more than 2,000 investment treaties but has proved controversial in recent times and is now regarded as outdated by the European Commission. In this regard, the Irish Government considered the European Commission was right to seek to address the concerns raised by NGOs and others regarding ISDS in seeking to develop a new replacement mechanism – the Investment Court System (ICS) – to address concerns on transparency, legitimacy and public interest - and ICS is the Investment Dispute Settlement system incorporated in CETA.

Investors may utilise either national courts or the ICS, but cannot "forum-shop". Equally, it is important to remember that a Canadian firm can seek to sue the government for alleged unfair treatment or discrimination in our Courts whether CETA exists or not. CETA simply provides an arbitration alternative. That alternative, unlike a challenge in the Courts, cannot find any act by Government to be ultra vires   or unconstitutional - it is only concerned with redress for proven harm.

  ICS addressees the concerns around the old ISDS system through:

  - Greater transparency – hearings will be open and comments available on-line, and a right to intervene for parties with an interest in the dispute will be provided;

  - Safeguards to prevent forum-shopping;

  - Provisions for the swift dismissal of Frivolous claims should they arise;

  - The maintenance of a clear distinction between international law and domestic law;

  - The avoidance of Multiple and parallel proceedings in the ICS and National Courts, and;

  - The establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators.

  The reforms to investment protection mean the ICS will involve:

  - a public Investment Court System composed of a first instance Tribunal and an Appeal Tribunal;

  - the establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators with qualifications – comparable to those required for the members of permanent international courts, from which members will be selected to hear individual cases.   

  - precise limitations on the ability of investors to take a case before the Tribunal.

  Under CETA the right of EU Member States (and Canada) to regulate for public policies (e.g. in health, environment, security) is fully preserved, and it is made clear that the deal does not imply an expectation that public policies will remain unchanged. Further, an investor’s loss of profits will not be sufficient grounds for making a claim against a Government. Any claim must be based on discriminatory and unfair treatment.

  Finally, Ireland has been a beneficiary of significant levels of Foreign Direct Investment or FDI for many decades with more and more Irish enterprises also making overseas investments in key markets in recent years. An Investment Protection Agreement, such as the ICS model in CETA, is, therefore, a key plank of assisting in the ongoing free-flow of mobile FDI making the EU and Ireland a more attractive location for mobile Canadian FDI than other Third Countries where Canadian Investors would not have available to them the protections that such an Agreement provides.

Departmental Contracts

 21. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his Department or State agencies under the aegis of his Department have awarded contracts to a company (details supplied); if so, the value of such contracts; if the contracts were tendered for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44783/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I understand the Deputy is seeking details of any contracts with the company in question during the last five years.

  My Department has not had any contracts with the company during this period.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 22. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the Covid-19 related supports taxi drivers can avail of to cover the high costs of insurance considering that their revenues were severely affected in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic and shutdown of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44854/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As part of Budget 2021, my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, and Transport, Eamon Ryan TD is introducing specific measures for taxi and hackney businesses. The Minister is providing funding to the National Transport Authority to enable it to waive annual vehicle licence renewal fees for 2021.

In addition, Minister Ryan is allocating €15 million to support up to 750 taxi and hackney drivers in scrapping older vehicles and replacing them with zero-emission capable electric alternatives. Up to €20,000 will be made available for eligible drivers switching to a new all-electric vehicle and up to €32,500 for those moving to a wheel chair accessible full electric vehicle.

Budget 2021 also provides a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help self-employed and vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. We are providing for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for the adversely affected self-employed.

To ensure that all self-employed taxpayers can benefit from the losses provision introduced in the July Stimulus, we are also providing that debt warehousing provisions be extended to include the 2019 balance and 2020 preliminary tax to allow such taxpayers to defer payment for a period of a year with no interest applying.

The Minister for Finance is also delivering on the Programme for Government commitment to equalise the Earned Income Credit with the PAYE credit by raising it by €150 to €1,650.

These measures are in addition to the €7billion July Stimulus, which includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended through 2021, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst self-employed.

COVID-19 Business Loans up to €25,000 are available through Microfinance Ireland. The loans can range from €5,000 to €25,000.

My colleague, Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Social Protection, opened applications for the revamped Enterprise Support Grant of up to €1,000 for self-employed recipients when exiting the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This grant is aimed at sole traders such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, taxi drivers and so on, who do not pay commercial rates.

Taxi drivers in receipt of the PUP can earn up to €480/month and retain their payment.

Construction Contracts

 23. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of cases heard by the panel of adjudicators established under section 8 of the Construction Contracts Act 2013 in each year since the commencement of the operation of the panel to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44856/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Construction Contracts Act, 2013 applies to certain construction contracts entered into after the 25th July 2016. If a payment dispute arises between the parties to a construction contract covered by the Act, a party to the contract has the right to refer the payment dispute for adjudication, which will be concluded within a set timeframe. The parties may jointly agree to appoint an Adjudicator of their own choice. If the parties cannot agree on whom to appoint as Adjudicator, a party to the contract may apply to the Chairperson of the Ministerial appointed Panel of Adjudicators, Dr. Nael Bunni, to appoint an Adjudicator to the dispute from that Panel.

  I set out below the number of Adjudicator appointments made by the Chairperson since the commencement of the Construction Contracts Act, 2013.

Construction Contracts Act, 2013 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Total
Number of Adjudicator appointments made by the Chairperson of the Ministerial appointed Panel of Adjudicators 0 1 21 34 40 96

Construction Contracts

 24. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of adjudicators available to the chair of the panel of adjudicators set up under the terms of section 8 of the Construction Contracts Act 2013; the number of appointments made by the chair of the panel to each member of the panel of adjudicators from the date of operation of the system to 30 November 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44857/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Construction Contracts Act, 2013 applies to certain construction contracts entered into after the 25th July 2016. There are currently 29 members of the Ministerial appointed Panel of Adjudicators excluding the Chairperson, Dr. Nael Bunni. The Chairperson has made 96 Adjudicator appointments to payment disputes since the commencement of the Act to the 30th November 2020. The appointment of an Adjudicator by the Chairperson to a payment dispute depends on a number of factors including the nature of the payment dispute which will inform the selection of a member of the Panel with the appropriate professional expertise, the availability of an individual member of the Panel and also that the member of the Panel is free from any potential conflict of interest in relation to the parties in dispute.  

  The following are the number of appointments made by the Chairperson to members of the Ministerial appointed Panel of Adjudicators since the commencement of the Act to 30th November 2020.

Member of the Ministerial appointed Panel of Adjudicators established under section 8 of the Construction Contracts Act, 2013 * Number of Adjudicator appointments since the commencement of the Act to the 30th November, 2020
Member (A) 1
Member (B) 3
Member (C) 6
Member (D) 2
Member (E) 14
Member (F) 12
Member (G) 6
Member (H) 1
Member (I) 5
Member (J) 7
Member (K) 2
Member (L) 6
Member (M) 8
Member (N) 1
Member (O) 3
Member (P) 8
Member (Q) 10
Member (R) 1
Total 96


  * As payment disputes which are referred for adjudication under the Construction Contracts Act, 2013 are private law contractual disputes, it would not be appropriate to disclose the names of the members of the Panel to whom disputes have been assigned.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 25. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of businesses in County Cork that have received support under the restart grant and the restart grant plus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44882/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus schemes were designed to help small and medium sized businesses get back on their feet after what has been an exceptionally difficult time.  The Restart Grant scheme was launched on 15 May with a budget of €250 million. The Restart Grant Plus scheme was launched on 10 August with an additional budget of €300m from the Government’s July Jobs Stimulus as a result of the increasing demand for the scheme.

The purpose of the schemes was to help with the cost of reopening or adapting business premises so that normal business could resume. Grant payments were administered by the Local Authorities via the commercial rates system as this was considered the most effective means to get urgent financial assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Restart Grant Plus scheme closed to new applications on 31 October and the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) operated by the Revenue Commissioners is now in place.

In response to the Deputy’s specific question and as at 8 January 2021, Cork City Council has awarded Restart Grant payments to 2,634 businesses. 2,638 businesses have benefitted from grant payments under the Restart Grant Plus Scheme, with a further 53 businesses approved for payment.

Cork County Council has awarded Restart Grant payments to 3,235 businesses. 3,593 businesses have benefitted from grant payments under the Restart Grant Plus Scheme, with a further 15 businesses approved for payment.

In total, over 120,000 applications have been managed under both Restart schemes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 31 local authorities and the Local Government Management Agency for their work in managing the applications under both schemes.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 26. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of businesses in County Cork that have availed of the Covid-19 credit guarantee scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44883/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme (CCGS) is the largest guarantee scheme in the history of the State.  Its function is to add certainty to businesses that liquidity is available for working capital and investment purposes. Loans of up to €1 million are available for up to five and a half years.  Loans under €250,000 do not require collateral or personal guarantees.

The Scheme was originally scheduled to run until 31 December 2020 in line with the requirements of the European Commission’s Temporary Framework on State Aid.  Following the extension to the terms of this European Framework, Government approved, on 24 November, the extension of the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to run until 30 June 2021.  It is available to SMEs, small Mid-Caps (businesses of up to 499 employees) and primary producers.

As part of the Commission’s State Aid Temporary Framework, each loan under the Scheme must have reduced interest rates. These are clearly articulated in the documentation businesses sign with their finance providers.

The Government will cover 80 percent of any claims under the scheme.  As per State Aid rules set by the European Commission, a premium must be paid to the Irish state which will alleviate some of the costs.

The sectors utilising the scheme most prominently are wholesale/retail (20%), accommodation/food services (13%), agriculture (12%) and construction (10%), demonstrating the strong need and utilisation of the CCGS by businesses most affected by COVID 19.

As at 17 December 215 businesses in County Cork have availed of the CCGS and have drawn loans with a value of €10,736,240.

The CCGS which is currently available through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank will see a number of new lenders using the Scheme in the coming weeks offering new product-lines. These new lenders will ensure increased regional availability of finance through the CCGS.

I want to assure the Deputy that I and my officials are constantly reviewing the Scheme and its effectiveness. I would also direct the Deputy to my Department’s website which has the details of this scheme as well as other relevant loan and grant supports available to Irish businesses.

Brexit Supports

 27. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of businesses in County Cork that have availed of the Microfinance Ireland Brexit business loan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44885/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar To enhance the suite of loans products available to Irish businesses who will be impacted by Brexit, Microfinance Ireland (MFI) launched their Brexit Business Loan on the 23rd of November 2020. MFI and officials in my Department have developed this loan product to operate under MFI’s remit which means the loans are available to micro businesses, eg, businesses with less than 10 employees and €2 million turnover.

For these businesses the impact of Brexit is more likely to be felt in imports and supply chains rather than exports. They will need to source new supply chains resulting in the need for cash payments for new stock. It is expected that many of these loans will be short term; less than 12 months. Hence the flexibility of the term of the loan from 6 months to 3 years.

The loan range of €5,000 to €25,000 is the requisite size for these smaller companies. It will assist them counter the initial disruption of Brexit and give them breathing space to normalise any import of supply chain changes going into the future.

To end of December, there were no draw downs under the MFI Brexit Business Loan in Cork or elsewhere.  MFI are ready to deliver these loans. For the size of these loans, they have favourable interest rates of 4.5% APR if submitted through the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Network or other referral partners or 5.5% APR if applied directly. This is to encourage these businesses to contact their LEO so as to avail of any other relevant training or potential for grant aid. There are no fees or charges or any hidden costs and there is no penalty for early repayment.

Work Permits

 28. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to reopen applications for work permits for dairy farm assistants in early 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44920/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The employment permits regime is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA nationals to fill skills and/or labour shortages, however, this objective must be balanced by the need to ensure that there are no suitably qualified Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that the shortage is a genuine one.

In order to ensure that the employment permits system is responsive to changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions, it is managed through the operation of the critical skills and the ineligible occupations lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for consideration for an employment permit. The lists are subject to twice yearly reviews which are evidence based and are guided by research undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) and the Skills and the Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) in SOLAS, a public consultation process, input from the relevant policy Departments and the Economic Migration Inter-Departmental Group, chaired by the Department.  Account is also taken of contextual factors such as Brexit and, in the current context, COVID 19. 

In May 2018, following consideration of a detailed business case submitted by the sector, a pilot quota-based scheme was introduced to remove the occupations of horticulture worker, meat processing operative and dairy farm assistant from the ineligible occupations list.  This pilot scheme allows workers from non-EEA countries to access employment opportunities.  To date this pilot scheme has proved very successful for a range of employers in the sector. The quota for dairy farm assistant has now expired, with all 150 permits issued.  

The first review of 2020 of the employment permits occupations lists concluded in October 2020. Following consideration of the submissions received and taking account of the current economic environment in particular the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, the report recommended that no changes be made to the occupations lists at this time, apart from two technical amendments.

The second review of the occupations lists is now underway with the public consultation phase having closed on 11 December 2020. Submissions have been received in respect of Dairy Farm Assistants and they will be considered as part of the review, the findings of which will be finalised in early 2021.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 29. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide support for the owners of a business (details supplied). [44938/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am keenly aware that businesses are continuing to make massive sacrifices to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government will offer as much assistance and support as possible. My Department has worked to ensure that appropriate supports are in place for businesses that require finance as they develop their response to impacts arising from COVID-19. The uptake of these supports has been strong and indicates that businesses are taking action in response to this period of disruption.

  Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. The measures in the Budget are in addition to those announced in the July Stimulus, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, cash for businesses, low cost loans, commercial rates waivers and deferred tax liabilities. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

  As part of Budget 2021, the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme, operational through Revenue, offers a targeted, timely and temporary sector-specific support to businesses forced to close or trade at significantly reduced levels due to COVID of up to €5,000 per week.

  Because businesses have to close, we have made changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the EWSS. Both changes increase in the top rate to €350 for those who were earning in excess of €400 per week. This change to payment rates will apply in respect of all existing and new applicants.

  We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. I announced the reopening of MFI lending on 31st August and I launched the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme on 7th September.

  We have also announced a six-month reduction in the VAT, going down 21%, and 9% respectively which will benefit the hospitality sector, together with a range of additional public capital investment measures to support the domestic economy.

  These supports are supplementary to the wide range of existing loan and voucher schemes available to assist businesses affected by COVID-19 provided through the July Jobs Stimulus and other Government initiatives.

  I'm aware that some businesses are not able to access CRSS and might be falling between the stools. I have asked my officials to work with the Department of Finance to identify the type and number of businesses that fall outside the scope of CRSS and are not covered by other sectorial schemes, and to report back to me with proposals on how we could amend CRSS or develop a new scheme for those companies.

My colleague, Minister Darragh O’Brien T.D., Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, may be able to provide further assistance in relation to the issue of harbour rates which is a matter for each local authority.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 30. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will meet with representatives of the car rental industry to hear and find solutions for Covid-19-related issues regarding the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45046/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar While sectorial development responsibility spans a range of Government Departments, as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment I am always interested in hearing industry insights into sectorial challenges to inform a strategic and coherent approach to economic development.  Officials in my Department have examined submissions from the car rental industry throughout the course of the pandemic.  I also note that a representative from the industry was invited to participate in the virtual stakeholder engagement event we held in October to inform the development of the National Economic Plan.

I recognise the severe impact the pandemic has had on international tourism and consequently, the car rental market, and that recovery is dependent on the opening up of international travel.  I am aware of the fundamental role that the car rental industry plays in supporting overseas tourism and providing the opportunity for tourists to visit all parts of the country, particularly the less accessible rural areas.  This is crucial to local economies and jobs. 

Measures introduced in the July Stimulus had a wide reach across the economy and respond to many of the needs outlined by the sector. Budget 2021 allocated significant additional resources to Departments to provide supports to sectors. I would highlight the €395m provided to the Department of Transport and the €222m allocated to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

These monies are additional to the other schemes available from bodies under my own Department such as credit guarantee schemes and supports provided to business via EI, InterTrade Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices. The Revenue tax debt warehousing scheme and the COVID restrictions support scheme are also available to businesses to help them manage the impact of the pandemic.

Maintaining a competitive business environment will be a core focus of the forthcoming National Economic Plan.  Government is aware that insurance reform is a priority for the car rental sector and there is a shared determination across Government to reduce insurance costs and improve availability of cover. The Government will drive the implementation of the recently published Action Plan for Insurance Reform which will see insurance reform in three broad areas over the next 18 months: tackling cost concerns and increasing transparency; legal reforms; and PIAB reform and increasing competition.

Redundancy Payments

 31. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the actions that will be taken for persons who are entitled to enhanced redundancy; when he plans intend to implement the Duffy Cahill report; if the legislation will cover the Irish workers of a group (details supplied); his plans to change company law to improve the position of workers in the list of creditors in the event of liquidation in circumstances in which a collective redundancy has been agreed and applied previously; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45056/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar A notification of proposed collective redundancies at Arcadia Group Multiples (Ireland) Limited was received in my office on the 18th of December.  It is the responsibility of the employer in the first instance to pay statutory redundancy.  However, the Social Insurance Fund provides a safety net for employees in situations where the employer cannot pay due to financial difficulties or insolvency. Negotiations on enhanced redundancy are a voluntary matter between the liquidator and former employees.

In relation to the list of creditors in a liquidation, preferential payments are provided for under section 621 of the Companies Act.  A preferential creditor is one whose debts are deemed to be more important than the debts of another creditor.  The current law is a result of careful balancing of the various rights of creditors, including employees. In terms of wage arrears, outstanding holiday pay, and pension scheme contributions, employees are already considered preferred creditors.

The Government has committed in the Programme for Government to review whether the current legal provisions surrounding collective redundancies and the liquidation of companies effectively protect the rights of workers.

The Company Law Review Group is undertaking a review of this commitment as it relates to company law and I understand that report is nearing completion. I look forward to receiving it and to publishing it on the CLRG's website shortly thereafter.

In addition, Ministers of State Damien English and Robert Troy jointly met with employer and union representative bodies on the 4th of November to begin a discussion on the various legislative provisions that deal with redundancy and insolvency from both an employment law and a company law  perspective. I understand that consultations and discussions are ongoing.

Company Law

 32. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extenuating circumstances under which a residential address can be withheld for a company officer under section 150(11) of the Companies Act 2014; if he will assist to make the section more widely publicised especially to parties forming companies in order to protect victims; and if he will allow for retrospective application of this section in order to protect victims after forming a company. [45071/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Under section 150(11) of the Companies Act 2014, the Minister may make Regulations regarding exempting a residential address of a company officer from appearing on the Register of Directors and Secretaries kept by the company or the Register kept by the Registrar of Companies, if it is determined that the circumstances concerning the personal safety or security of the person warrant such an exemption and any other conditions as specified in the Regulations are satisfied.  The Companies Act 2014 (Section 150) (No. 2) Regulations 2015 (S.I. No. 543 of 2015) provide that an application to request an exemption can be made to the Registrar, accompanied by a Form T1 and a supporting statement from an officer of An Garda Síochána not below the rank of a Chief Superintendent. 

  The request for such an exemption can either be made when a company officer is first appointed or at a later stage. The exemption takes effect from the date that the Form T1 has been registered and applies to forms submitted to the Companies Registration Office after the date of registration. 

  Information in relation to the withholding of the residential address of a company officer is currently available on the CRO website at https://www.cro.ie/en-ie/Post-Registration/Company/Officer-Address-Disclosure. I understand that the Registrar is reviewing the CRO website with a view to ensuring that information on this provision is given sufficient prominence.

  The Registrar does not have a general power to administratively amend the public register or to allow amendments to be made to registered documents or a statutory power to remove registered submissions from the Register.  It would not be practical to retrospectively provide for an exemption as the information on the Register is available immediately after registration and widely disseminated.  The CRO website is the access point for those seeking information from the Register as part of due diligence exercises and the Registrar also facilitates bulk data providers who, on a daily basis, take data from the Register electronically and make it available to other third parties.


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