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Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 4
Unrevised

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is a little unfair to Deputy Cronin. If Deputy Conway-Walsh put all her questions, we could then take the two sets together, if possible. If not, will the Tánaiste correspond?

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Yes.

Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I foresee that as the various schemes for workers and businesses come to an end, a number of companies will be withdrawing from the State. What legislation does the Government have in place to ensure that workers' rights will be protected in that scenario and that we will not end up in the circumstances in which we ended up recently regarding the Debenhams and Arcadia workers?

When is the rates waiver due to end? What arrangements has the Tánaiste put in place to ensure it can be extended so businesses will not be crippled under the weight of rates and will have some certainty as to what their expenditure will be?

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has said that, without reform, some employees, having been laid off due to the pandemic and through no fault of their own, could lose out on up to a year of redundancy pay. Will the Government reform employment law so the period spent on the PUP will count towards redundancy payments?

Has the Tánaiste considered making the EU Covid recovery fund available through the local development companies so decision-making could occur locally? Has he considered its use to enhance the transitional LEADER programme?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Has the Tánaiste any brief comments?

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Kerry Group has been in contact with the Department. We are aware that 150 job losses are planned. They will not all take place in Naas but we will obviously be working to ensure redeployment is an option and that the number of compulsory redundancies will be minimised, if there are any at all.

I had not heard the idea of Ireland becoming an EU hub for live events. It sounds like a good idea. It sounds exciting. I would be interested in reading any proposals on it to determine whether my Department could help with it. The Department of the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin, is the lead Department in this area but I have an interest in it also. I would be interested in studying any proposal that might help the sector to bounce back once it is possible to attend live events again.

On Ulster Bank, I do not believe we should jump the gun here. There has been no announcement yet. There has been no announcement of any redundancies at this stage. My Department has not been informed of any. It is a little early to be talking about the conditions of redundancy at this stage.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We are out of time. Could the Tánaiste correspond with the Deputies?

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar On the rates waiver issue, the Government is considering whether to extend the rates holiday into quarter 2. We will give businesses notice of that long before the Bill might arrive.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Regarding Kerry Group, is there engagement to determine whether some of the jobs can be saved? Is that the kind of engagement that will happen?

On the Covid-19 business aid scheme, CBAS, the Department's website stated, even up to yesterday, that the information will be provided shortly. What does "shortly" mean? There are some people who will be on a knife edge making decisions. Is it likely that the scheme will come with some of the caveats that were attached to the Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS? Some businesses could not avail of the latter because they sell a service rather than a physical product and have no face-to-face interaction with customers. Could the Tánaiste indicate when the CBAS will be introduced and what will be required in order to do so? When will people be able to apply?

A second group of questions I want to ask relates to some of the schemes already in place, such as the stay and spend scheme. The latter was not originally intended to operate in level 5. Several schemes are not being availed of to the extent anticipated. Is the Tánaiste going to review them?

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We have only had initial contact with Kerry Group but my understanding is that what is proposed is a consolidation of services across two of its sites. The group has more staff than work that needs to be done so I am not sure that saving the jobs, as such, is a possibility. Perhaps redeployment, early retirement and voluntary redundancy are possible. The objective is always to avoid compulsory redundancies where possible.

We intend to have the CBAS open for applications by the end of this month. There will not be any requirement for a business to be customer facing in the way there is such a requirement for the CRSS, for example, but there will be a requirement to have a premises and, therefore, fixed costs associated with that premises. That will create a difficulty for those whose business might be based in a vehicle rather than in a premises. The CBAS may not be the last scheme the Government announces. We are always looking for new schemes to assist businesses through this difficult period.

I apologise as I have forgotten the Deputy's last question.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy It was on the stay and spend scheme.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is fair enough to state that the stay and spend scheme has not cost very much. It has not cost as much as we had believed because people have been confined to their counties or to within a radius of 5 km. The same applies to the 9% VAT rate. The hospitality sector did not benefit from that in the way we had intended. When we get to the point where hospitality businesses can reopen, which I hope will be in the summer months, we will need to determine what more we can do to help to reboot the industry, which has been closed for much longer than any of us anticipated.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The same kind of question relates to the Ireland-based inbound agents business continuity scheme. I am told the information required to gain access to the scheme is very complex. The process is quite burdensome and there are concerns over commercial sensitivity so the take-up is not as high as it could be. The scheme appears to benefit bigger entities that are better resourced. Will the Tánaiste re-examine how the scheme is working and perhaps take soundings from those who tried to apply but did not because it appears there were issues with it?

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Could the Deputy give me the name of the scheme again?

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The Ireland-based inbound agents business continuity scheme. That is how I picked it up.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will have to check up on that and revert to the Deputy. I am not familiar with that one. I dare say it does not fall under the remit of my Department but I might find that it does so I will check.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It is the tourism business continuity scheme.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is a scheme under the remit of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Does the Tánaiste have a role in contributing to the applications we make for support under the European instrument for temporary support to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency, SURE, scheme? Are we applying in a timely way? We seem to have been among the last to apply. There is a very large amount of money available, €100 billion, but we do not want the funding to be exhausted before our applications are made.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Minister for Finance is heading up that. He has made the application for funding under the SURE scheme. As I understand it, it involves borrowed money. It is an EU fund from which we can borrow money for schemes such as the EWSS, but it is at a blended rate. We can actually borrow more cheaply from the markets than from EU funds. It is more expensive to borrow through the SURE scheme than on the money markets. We are participating because we believe we should do so, but it is actually more expensive.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I welcome the fact that the Tánaiste said we will not be allowing Aer Lingus to fail. That is as it should be. On the discussions with Aer Lingus, do the supports being provided come with caveats regarding the kinds of services we will be able to have? I refer to our not ending up in a hub based on Manchester or to our becoming a regional airport for Manchester in terms of the flights to the US.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar When I say we will not let Aer Lingus fail, I do not want to create the impression that it is in any way about to fail or anything like that, just in case I am misunderstood. What I am saying is that we are providing a lot of financial support already through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and the EWSS.


Last Updated: 26/02/2021 14:31:41 First Page Previous Page Page of 71 Next Page Last Page