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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 6-24
 Header Item Food Prices
 Header Item Ministerial Correspondence
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Trade Data
 Header Item Enterprise Support Services
 Header Item Enterprise Support Services
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Local Enterprise Offices
 Header Item Local Enterprise Offices
 Header Item Local Enterprise Offices
 Header Item Foreign Direct Investment
 Header Item Enterprise Data

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 4
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 71 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 6-24

Food Prices

 6. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his Department has carried out studies and analysis of the effects of the removal of the groceries order in 2006; if consideration has been given to reinstating the order or a version of same; his views on whether such an order would be helpful in protecting the primary producers of vegetables and meat at farm level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9229/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The term “Groceries Order” refers to the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 (S.I. No.142 of 1987). This Order prohibited below invoice price selling rather than banning below cost selling. However, in effect, the Order had allowed wholesalers and suppliers to determine minimum retail prices being charged to consumers, thereby seriously constraining competition in the grocery trade. This Order did not cover fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh and frozen meat, and fish.

The single most important reason for revoking the Order was that it had kept prices of groceries in Ireland at an artificially high level by allowing suppliers to specify minimum prices below which products could not be sold.

The Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 repealed the Restrictive Practices Act 1972 as well as revoking the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 (S.I. No.142 of 1987). Since the revocation of the Groceries Order in March 2006, no statutory basis exists for me, as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to make a minimum pricing order in any sector. Consequently, I will not be making any such order.

I understand that the matter of supporting the primary producers of vegetables and meat at farm level will be dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in forthcoming legislation which will transpose into domestic law the Directive (EU) on unfair trading practices which has the objective of banning unfair trading practices (UTPs) in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain.

Ministerial Correspondence

 7. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 1 December 2020, if the correspondence received by him on 20 November 2020 has received the necessary attention; and if so, if his Department will be replying to the correspondence. [9303/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The correspondence referred to was received in the Office of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on 20th November 2020 and the matter is receiving attention.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 8. 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 Covid-related supports can remain in place in order to facilitate a much-needed economic boost if and when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9311/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I recognise the impact that this pandemic is having on businesses right across the country. In order to assist businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 the Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. These are in addition to financial assistance and other schemes provided to businesses via Enterprise Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices. Full details are available here at: https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/

  On 9 February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes and is designed to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover who are in receipts of a rates bill can benefit.

  We are committed to helping businesses respond to the economic challenges arising from the pandemic with a particular focus on firms that do not qualify for the weekly CRSS grant from the Revenue Commissioners or existing sectoral schemes in areas such as the arts, transport and tourism.

  This new CBAS will help some businesses that are not eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public. We estimate that this will help approximately 7,500 businesses. While the grant is modest it will be of substantial assistance to smaller businesses with some of their fixed costs like rent, utilities and security.

  I and my colleagues across Government will continue to keep the range of measures under review with the goal of setting our country towards economic recovery. The Government is determined to ensure there will be no cliff-edge scenario and businesses will continue to be supported as much as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 9. 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 new enterprises continue to be funded in various forms in order to address the negative impact of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9312/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The 31 Local Enterprise Offices continue to offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (up to 10 employees) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within four main categories, following the LEO Lifecycle of Pre-Start, Start and Grow;

  - Feasibility Grants, for investigating the potential of a new business idea.

  - Priming Grants, to part-fund a start-up and help with direct business costs such as salary, rental costs, utilities, marketing and consultancy costs.

  - Business Development grants are designed to assist the business in its growth phase after the initial 18-month start-up period.

  The Local Enterprise Offices also offer a comprehensive suite of ‘soft’ supports to new enterprises such as

  - The Start your Own Business Programme,

  - The Mentor Programme,

  - Management Training programmes,

  - Local Enterprise Office LEAN for Micro.

  The LEO network will continue to drive uptake of LEO offers and supports through the implementation of its ‘Making It Happen’ communications strategy at national level across the brand pillars; Pre-Start, Start & Grow. A national brand campaign under the Resilience & Recovery theme is aimed at supporting those affected by COVID-19, post-Brexit and as a shield against further economic downturns. The campaign will generate awareness of the enterprise pathway with Enterprise Ireland and cross promotion of EI supports to LEOs & LEO clients (in accordance with the programme for Government).    

  In addition, The Local Enterprise Offices have organised over 200 virtual events for Local Enterprise Week, which will be taking place online from March 1st to March 5th, highlighting the vast supports available to enterprises.

  In order to assist businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for firms of all sizes. These supports are designed to build confidence, to further assist businesses in terms of the management of their companies and to allow them to begin looking to the future and start charting a path forward

  The Local Enterprise Offices will continue to adapt their supports to deal with the changing external environment ensuring that they are robust in their offerings to business in tackling existing and emerging economic challenges for new enterprises.

  I am continuing to work with my colleagues across Government to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 and will continue to monitor and review the measures in place for businesses with the goal of setting our country towards economic recovery. The Government is determined to ensure that businesses will continue to be supported as much as possible.

  In that regard, I have also recently announced a new scheme called the COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) which is aimed at those businesses who fall outside the eligibility requirements for CRSS. This new scheme will ensure businesses will be able to access help in meeting some of their fixed costs while suffering significant falls in turnover due to public health restrictions.

  These businesses are likely to include businesses within the hospitality sector for example if they do not qualify for CRSS, have a rateable premises and their turnover is significantly impacted.

  CBAS will help businesses to remain open and maintain links with their customers. It will help ensure that they are well placed to benefit from the re-opening of the economy over the coming months and maintain choice for consumers.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 10. 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 supports in the wake of Covid-19 can continue to remain available in order to facilitate the greatest possible extent of recovery post-Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9313/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I recognise the impact that this pandemic is having on businesses right across the country. In order to assist businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 the Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. These are in addition to financial assistance and other schemes provided to businesses via Enterprise Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices. Full details are available here at: https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/

  On 9th  February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes and is designed to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover who are in receipts of a rates bill can benefit.

  We are committed to helping businesses respond to the economic challenges arising from the pandemic with a particular focus on firms that do not qualify for the weekly CRSS grant from the Revenue Commissioners or existing sectoral schemes in areas such as the arts, transport and tourism.

  This new CBAS will help some businesses that are not eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public. We estimate that this will help approximately 7,500 businesses. While the grant is modest it will be of substantial assistance to smaller businesses with some of their fixed costs like rent, utilities and security.

  I and my colleagues across Government will continue to keep the range of measures under review with the goal of setting our country towards economic recovery. The Government is determined to ensure there will be no cliff-edge scenario and businesses will continue to be supported as much as possible.

Brexit Issues

 11. 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 various issues arising from Brexit have been identified as negatively impacting on the economy; the extent of the introduction of measures to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9314/21]

 12. 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 degree to which Ireland’s consular sector overseas continues to counter Brexit-related impacts on the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9315/21]

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. 11 and 12 together.

  In the seven weeks since the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into force that sets us on a different course for trading with the UK, we are seeing some short-term disruption arising from the new requirements around customs and SPS checks and controls. Supply chains are gradually adjusting to the new arrangements and documentary requirements and I acknowledge that this is presenting a significant overhead for businesses.

  Across Government, we are proactively engaged on a regular basis with shipping companies, hauliers and logistics companies, business representative groups, retailers and individual businesses to manage the issues arising from the new trading relationship with the UK.

  Over the last four budgets Government has invested heavily in infrastructure, resources in State agencies, financial supports and enterprise supports to assist businesses to navigate in a post Brexit trading environment. Through the enterprise agencies, I have put in place an extensive suite of enterprise supports that range from liquidity supports through short-term and long-term loans, to restructuring aid for businesses in severe operating difficulties. The majority of enterprise supports are open to all businesses, including SMEs, and not just those that are clients of the enterprise agencies. In the meantime, my Department is continuing to monitor and work with all sectors in the economy as they experience Brexit fallout while dealing in parallel with COVID-19.

  Budget 2021 allocated unprecedented resources to confronting the twin challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit, with €340 million to be spent on Brexit-related measures. Government has also provided for a €3.4 billion recovery fund to assist businesses in the aftermath of COVID-19 and Brexit. A full list of enterprise and financial supports is available on my Department’s website at www.enterprise.gov.ie and on www.Gov.ie/Brexit.

  The results of analysis carried out in 2018 and later in January 2020 on the likely impacts of Brexit on key sectors of the Irish economy identified the Agri-Food sector as the sector likely to be the most impacted. In that respect, the recent announcement of the €100 million Capital Investment Scheme for the Processing and Marketing of Agricultural Products, managed by Enterprise Ireland, is just one of the ways the Government is helping the Agri-Food sector manage the fallout from Brexit.

  I am committed to ensuring that the most impacted sectors of the economy will be given the State assistance they require. The proposal to allocate €1 billion in the first tranche of the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve to Ireland is welcome and is strong recognition for the fact that Ireland is one of the most impacted Member States by Brexit. The fund will be used to mitigate the worst impacts of Brexit for the most impacted sectors in the economy.

  In relation to consular services overseas, the Deputy can ask for more detailed information from my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, the UK is, and will remain, a major market for Irish companies, and expanding the Irish export footprint in markets beyond the UK is a key priority. In that context, Enterprise Ireland’s strategy is to support Irish exporters to be more innovative, competitive and market diversified.

  As we continue to address the many challenges and complexities raised by Brexit, it is our intention to maintain our valuable trading relationship with the UK in the years ahead. For that reason, as part of the Global Ireland 2025 Strategy, Enterprise Ireland opened a new office in Manchester in 2019. This new office, which complements the work carried out by the agency in its London office, enables Enterprise Ireland to continue to support Irish companies to consolidate and grow exports to the UK.

Trade Data

 13. 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 Irish exports to the UK and the European Union have fluctuated since Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9316/21]

 14. 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 levels of trade between Ireland and the UK, the UK and the EU, excluding Ireland, and each EU country have fluctuated since the imposition of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9317/21]

 23. 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 trade with non-EU countries including the UK had progressed and continued since 1 January 2021 in the context of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9326/21]

 26. 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 he continues to monitor the import and export sectors with a view to measuring the impact of Brexit and-or Covid-19 on the economy generally if particular issues arise which might require attention in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9329/21]

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. 13, 14, 23 and 26 together.

The Central Statistics Office compiles statistical data on Goods Exports and Imports. The latest figures available relate to exports and imports for the month of December 2020 and for the year 2020. As statistics are not yet available for the month of January 2021, it is not yet possible to measure any impact on trade between Ireland and the UK, the EU or non-EU countries since 1 January 2021.

The latest Goods Exports and Imports release from the Central Statistics Office, dated 15 February 2021, shows that the value of goods exports from Ireland rose to €160.8bn in 2020 which is the highest level on record. The value of goods exports increased by €8.3bn or 5.4% when compared to 2019. The total value of imports to Ireland in 2020 was €85,367 million. The value of imports decreased compared to 2019, falling by €5,495 million (-6%).

The EU accounted for €63,859 million (40%) of total exports in 2020, an increase of €7,211 million (+13%) on 2019. The EU accounted for €30,329 million of imports in 2020, representing 36% of total imports. This was a decrease of €2,969 million (-9%) on 2019. As the UK had exited the EU on January 31st 2020, the data comparing EU trade in 2019 and 2020 excludes the UK for both periods for comparative purposes.

Exports to non-EU countries (excluding the UK) were valued at €82,457 million in 2020, which is an increase of €2,360 million (+3%) on the 2019 level of exports. The US continues to be Ireland’s biggest single goods export market, accounting for €49,845 million or 31% of total exports in 2020. Imports from non-EU countries (excluding the UK) totalled €35,522 million in 2020, a decrease of €1,654 million (-4%) on the 2019 level of imports.

Exports to Great Britain in 2020 were valued at €12,399 million, which is a decrease of €1,183 million (-9%) compared with 2019. Exports to Great Britain accounted for 8% of total exports in 2020.

Imports from Great Britain in 2020 were €17,812 million, a decrease of €861 million (-5%) when compared with 2019, meaning there was a trade deficit of €5,413 million with Great Britain in 2020. Imports from Great Britain accounted for 21% of total imports in 2020.

My Department continues to monitor the performance of the import and export sectors as the outlook for exports to the UK, Eurozone and rest of the world is being impacted by both Brexit and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The long-term response to Brexit is for companies across all sectors to become more competitive, more innovative and to diversify their export footprint into more international markets. My Department’s 2021 budget allocation of €1.13bn represents an increase of €154 million or 15.9% on the 2020 allocation. This is in addition to €100 million earmarked from the Recovery Fund for Brexit. This is a record allocation and will significantly bolster the capability of our enterprise and regulatory agencies to help businesses examine their Brexit exposure, seek advice, avail of customs training and make plans to protect their business.

Enterprise Ireland’s ambition for 2021 is to sustain Irish jobs and exports and increase the resilience of the enterprise base with a view to ensuring global exports retain their pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit value of €25.6 bn. The agency’s focus will be on supporting clients to adapt and succeed in a post-Brexit environment, sustaining existing export sales and accelerating the diversification of Irish exports. While the UK will remain a major market for Irish companies, expanding the Irish export market in markets beyond the UK will continue to be a priority.

In recent years the majority of Ministerial-led Trade Missions have taken place to the Eurozone, North America and Asia Pacific, which represented the strongest growth opportunities for Irish companies. These Trade Missions focused on promoting the innovative capabilities and competitive offerings of Irish companies to international buyers in sectors including internationally traded services, fintech, high-tech construction, engineering, ICT and lifesciences. In 2020, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, promotion of our companies abroad continued through the work of our State agencies, and, in particular, their offices located on the ground internationally.

My Department is currently finalising a Ministerial led Trade Mission Programme for 2021. At this stage, it is envisaged that such a programme will contain a mix of virtual and actual trade missions. At the same time, Enterprise Ireland will continue to support companies to sustain their existing export sales and to increasingly diversify their export markets. This will include strengthening sales and marketing capability of companies, with a particular focus on remote/virtual channels and providing targeted financial and advisory supports to companies adversely impacted upon by COVID-19 and Brexit to support their adaptation to the challenging market environment.

As well as the global efforts supported by our agencies, key to our success in growing exports has been our commitment to trade liberalisation in order to open new markets for our indigenous sectors. With a small domestic market, further expansion in other markets is essential to our continued economic growth and, in this regard, Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new Free Trade Agreements, opening new markets for Irish companies and increasing export and investment opportunities.

Enterprise Support Services

 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 incentives continue to be made available to encourage the manufacturing and services sectors given the impact of both Brexit and Covid-19; if new measures are in mind; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9318/21]

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 making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government offers as much assistance and support as possible. A comprehensive range of measures is in place for manufacturing and service firms of all sizes, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

  We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. We are continuing to see strong take-up of the range of supports available for businesses, in particular of the cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. There has also been a surge in applications for Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise Fund; the non-repayable grant element of that Scheme is proving particularly attractive to companies seeking urgent working capital.

  On 9th February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes and is designed to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover who are in receipts of a rates bill can benefit.

  We are committed to helping businesses respond to the economic challenges arising from the pandemic with a particular focus on firms that do not qualify for the weekly CRSS grant from the Revenue Commissioners or existing sectoral schemes in areas such as the arts, transport and tourism.

  This new CBAS will help some businesses that are not eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public. We estimate that this will help approximately 7,500 businesses. While the grant is modest it will be of substantial assistance to smaller businesses with some of their fixed costs like rent, utilities and security.

  I will continue to work with my colleagues to monitor the schemes of our Departments and to identify practical actions to protect jobs, help businesses and build their resilience through this difficult time.

Enterprise Support Services

 16. 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 incentives continue to be made available to the manufacturing and services sectors in County Kildare in order to counter the impacts of both Brexit and Covid-19; if new measures are in mind; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9319/21]

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 making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government offers as much assistance and support as possible. A comprehensive range of measures is in place for manufacturing and service firms of all sizes, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

  We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. We are continuing to see strong take-up of the range of supports available for businesses, in particular of the cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. There has also been a surge in applications for Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise Fund; the non-repayable grant element of that Scheme is proving particularly attractive to companies seeking urgent working capital.

  On 9th February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes and is designed to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover who are in receipts of a rates bill can benefit.

  As Irish enterprise navigates the impact of COVID-19 and Ireland’s new trading relationship with the UK, Enterprise Ireland’s focus in 2021 will be on building a resilient enterprise base in order to sustain jobs and exports. In 2020, Enterprise Ireland companies employed 9,154 people in 202 plants in Co. Kildare. Payments to Enterprise Ireland companies in Co. Kildare in 2018 - 2020 were €15,286,428.86. This funding assists companies to innovate, be competitive and grow exports. Enterprise Ireland has introduced new funding supports to help companies navigate impact of Brexit and Covid-19 further information can be found here https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/funding-supports/

  LEO Kildare offered a broad range of training in 2020 to support the manufacturing and services sectors in County Kildare. Examples of this type of training are as follows: Banking & Finance, Business Administration, Creative Business Programme, Export Development Programme, Financial Management, Human Resource Management, Leadership, Prepare Your Business for Customs training, Preparing Cash Flows & Developing a Business Plan, and Public Procurement. LEO Kildare will continue to offer training in 2021 to meet the demands of the manufacturing and services sectors further information on supports can be found.

  I will continue to work with my colleagues to monitor the schemes of our Departments and to identify practical actions to protect jobs, help businesses and build their resilience through this difficult time.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 17. 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 he continues to liaise with the manufacturing and services sectors throughout Ireland with a view to continuing to identify those areas currently in need of assistance arising from Covid-19; if some sectors require a supportive response more than others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9320/21]

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 making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government offers as much assistance and support as possible. A comprehensive range of measures is in place for manufacturing and service firms of all sizes, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

  We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. We are continuing to see strong take-up of the range of supports available for businesses, in particular of the cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. There has also been a surge in applications for Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise Fund; the non-repayable grant element of that Scheme is proving particularly attractive to companies seeking urgent working capital.

  On 9th February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes and is designed to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover who are in receipts of a rates bill can benefit.

  We are committed to helping businesses respond to the economic challenges arising from the pandemic with a particular focus on firms that do not qualify for the weekly CRSS grant from the Revenue Commissioners or existing sectoral schemes in areas such as the arts, transport and tourism.

  This new CBAS will help some businesses that are not eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public. We estimate that this will help approximately 7,500 businesses. While the grant is modest it will be of substantial assistance to smaller businesses with some of their fixed costs like rent, utilities and security.

  I will continue to work with my colleagues to monitor the schemes of our Departments and to identify practical actions to protect jobs, help businesses and build their resilience through this difficult time.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 18. 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 he continues to liaise with the manufacturing and services sectors in County Kildare with a view to continuing to identify those areas currently in need of assistance arising from Covid-19; if some sectors require a supportive response more than others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9321/21]

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 making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government offers as much assistance and support as possible. A comprehensive range of measures is in place for manufacturing and service firms of all sizes, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

  We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. We are continuing to see strong take-up of the range of supports available for businesses, in particular of the cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. There has also been a surge in applications for Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise Fund; the non-repayable grant element of that Scheme is proving particularly attractive to companies seeking urgent working capital.

  On 9th February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes such as CRSS and is designed to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover and in receipt of a rates bill may benefit.

  As Irish enterprise navigates the impact of COVID-19 and Ireland’s new trading relationship with the UK, Enterprise Ireland’s focus in 2021 will be on building a resilient enterprise base in order to sustain jobs and exports. In 2020, Enterprise Ireland companies employed 9,154 people in 202 plants in Co. Kildare. Payments to Enterprise Ireland companies in Co. Kildare in 2018 - 2020 were €15,286,428.86. This funding assists companies to innovate, be competitive and grow exports. Enterprise Ireland has introduced new funding supports to help companies navigate impact of Brexit and Covid-19 further information can be found here.

  LEO Kildare offered a broad range of training in 2020 to support the manufacturing and services sectors in County Kildare. Examples of this type of training are as follows: Banking & Finance, Business Administration, Creative Business Programme, Export Development Programme, Financial Management, Human Resource Management, Leadership, Prepare Your Business for Customs training, Preparing Cash Flows & Developing a Business Plan, and Public Procurement. LEO Kildare will continue to offer training in 2021 to meet the demands of the manufacturing and services sectors further information on supports can be found.

  I will continue to work with my colleagues to monitor the schemes of our Departments and to identify practical actions to protect jobs, help businesses and build their resilience through this difficult time.

Local Enterprise Offices

 19. 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 if further particular incentives are being considered to encourage the entrepreneurial skills of younger persons with particular reference to those impacted by Covid-19 or Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9322/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department and its Agencies will continue our work to enable younger persons to develop the entrepreneurial skills needed to pursue their business ideas. This is particularly important given the twin challenges to businesses of COVID-19 and Brexit.

In 2021, Enterprise Ireland will continue to offer a number of start-up supports available to younger persons.

These include New Frontiers, which is the National Programme designed to develop entrepreneurs, delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland (EI) by Institutes of Technology and Universities nationwide. The programme takes place over three phases and consists of practical and interactive workshops, personalised one-to-one mentoring, financial support and co-working space.

EI’s Competitive Start Fund offers €50,000 equity investment designed to accelerate the development of high potential start-up companies, by supporting them to achieve commercial and technical milestones.

The Student Entrepreneur Awards, an annual event led and managed by EI, is open to full time registered third level students attending college on the island of Ireland. Students get the opportunity to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into commercial businesses.

In 2020, despite the pandemic, the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) continued to provide advice and support to entrepreneurs to pursue their business ideas and look for opportunities to start up new businesses.

The LEOs offer a broad range of training programmes to support entrepreneurship and develop start-up businesses and in response to the restrictions in place during lockdown. These have been pivoted to online platforms, making them more accessible than ever before to new entrepreneurs.

These include the Start Your Own Business (SYOB) programme, which guides clients through the various aspects of business and business planning has continued across the country throughout the pandemic.

The Mentor Programme is a free of charge service allowing clients to work with an experienced mentor to identify solutions to areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, clients develop strategies that are more robust, which address issues and maximises potential opportunities including those around COVID-19 and Brexit challenges.

The Lean for Micro initiative helps build resilience within small companies. Under this Programme, clients can avail of consultancy support with a LEAN Expert (a qualified practitioner), who will work with the company to introduce lean principles, undertake a specific cost saving projects and assist the company in benchmarking its performance. During the COVID pandemic, the principles of LEAN for Micro have also been used to help implement new remote working and physical distancing guidelines.

The LEOs continue to reinforce entrepreneurship in the education system as a critical element in the future development of small business in Ireland. A number of initiatives are run by the LEOs at both primary and secondary level with the flagship programme the Student Enterprise Programme.

Finally, the ‘Report of the SME Taskforce: SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan’, which was published last month by my Department, sets out a wide range of recommendations with long-term strategic relevance for SMEs and entrepreneurs.

The Report, which was developed by an SME Taskforce of entrepreneurs, business leaders and other stakeholders, results from the commitment in the 'Programme for Government – Our Shared Future' to draw up an ambitious long-term strategic blueprint for SMEs and entrepreneurs beyond COVID-19.

The recommendations in the Report include measures to support the education of future and existing entrepreneurs throughout the different stages of education, including at Leaving Certificate and third level.

These proposals, while not yet Government policy, will be considered by a Ministerial-led SME & Entrepreneurship Implementation Group, in conjunction with appropriate Government Departments, Agencies and other stakeholders, during the course of 2021.

Local Enterprise Offices

 20. 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 if further particular incentives are being considered to encourage the entrepreneurial skills of younger persons in County Kildare with particular reference to those impacted by Covid-19 or Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9323/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The 31 Local Enterprise Offices nationwide act as a ‘first-stop-shop’ providing advice and guidance, financial assistance, and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own business and do so regardless of the age of the applicant. Their business advisors and mentors offer signposting to the programmes and supports that will help and encourage new entrepreneurs to start and successfully run their own businesses.

  In 2020, despite the pandemic, the Local Enterprise Offices continued to provide advice and support to entrepreneurs to pursue their business ideas and look for opportunities to start up new businesses. By providing direct financial assistance to over 1,000 business projects, an estimated 366 of which were priming grants for start-up companies, the Local Enterprise Offices have participated in continuing to develop new enterprise in this country.

  In 2020 the Local Enterprise Office in Kildare offered a broad range of training programmes to support entrepreneurship and develop start-up businesses. In response to the restrictions in place during lockdown, these were pivoted to Online platforms, making them more accessible than ever before to new entrepreneurs.

  The Start Your Own Business (SYOB) programme which guides clients through the various aspects of business and business planning has continued across the country throughout the pandemic. This aims to assist clients in assessing their business idea, its viability and to help them to decide if they should proceed or take a step back. Since January last year the Local Enterprise Office in Kildare has hosted 21 Start Your Own Business courses with over 270 participants.

  The Mentor Programme is a free of charge service allowing clients to work with an experienced mentor to identify solutions to areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, clients develop strategies that are more robust, which address issues and maximises potential opportunities including those around COVID-19 and Brexit challenges.

  Lean for Micro which helps build resilience within small companies. Under this Programme, clients can avail of consultancy support with a LEAN Expert (a qualified practitioner), who will work with the company to introduce lean principles, undertake a specific cost saving projects and assist the company in benchmarking its performance. During the COVID pandemic, the principles of LEAN for Micro have also been used to help implement new remote working and physical distancing guidelines.

  The Local Enterprise Offices also offer extensive Management training and development courses to further equip senior managers in Irish microenterprises to expand their knowledge and encourage best practice. Examples of this type of training are as follows: Advertising & Promotion, Banking & Finance, Basic Bookkeeping, Brexit Programme, Female Entrepreneurship, Financial Management, Human Resource Management, Preparing Cash Flows & Developing a Business Plan, Sales and Selling.

  The Local Enterprise Offices offer Customs workshops, open to all businesses. These one-day interactive workshops provide businesses with a better understanding of the potential impacts, formalities and procedures to be adopted when trading with a country which is outside the Single Market and Custom Unions (a "Third Country"). Now, in the aftermath of Brexit, these courses are being redesigned to provide accurate, up to date advice to business owners who currently export or those about to begin their export journey.

The LEOs continue to reinforce entrepreneurship in the education system as a critical element in the future development of small business in Ireland. A number of initiatives are run by the LEOs at both primary and secondary level with the flagship programme the Student Enterprise Programme.  The 2019/2020 LEO Second Level Student Enterprise participation in Kildare was 21 schools with 1,504 students participating.

  Encouraging and promoting an enterprise culture is an important area of activity for Local Enterprise Offices, as it is critical that young people from all backgrounds see enterprise as a viable career choice. Our young people need to be open to the idea of creating a new job rather than looking for one. For all of these reasons the Local Enterprise Offices have strategically focused much of their endeavours in the field of entrepreneurship development on the education sector.

  Enterprise Ireland also have a number of start-up supports available to younger persons such as:

New Frontiers: New Frontiers is the National Programme designed to develop entrepreneurs and delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Institutes of Technology and Universities nationwide. The programme takes place over three phases and consists of practical and interactive workshops, personalised one-to-one mentoring, financial support and co-working space.

Competitive Start Fund: €50,000 equity investment designed to accelerate the development of high potential start-up companies by supporting them to achieve commercial and technical milestones such as evaluating international market opportunities or building a prototype.

Student Entrepreneur Awards: An annual event led and managed by Enterprise Ireland with a number of co-sponsors, including Grant Thornton, Cruickshank, Local Enterprise Office. The competition is open to full time registered third level students attending college on the island of Ireland. Students get the opportunity to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into commercial businesses. There is €35,000 total prize money for an overall winner (€10,000) and specific category winners. These winners are also given access to mentoring supports from Enterprise Ireland and the programme sponsors.

  For more in-depth information on all business supports available to all entrepreneurs, please see this departments website www.Enterprise.gov.ie.

Local Enterprise Offices

 21. 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 incentives in hand to encourage young persons to participate in the industrial sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9324/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department and its Agencies will continue our work to enable younger persons to develop the entrepreneurial skills needed to pursue their business ideas.

The Local Enterprise Offices in every county are the first stop shop for anyone interested in starting or scaling a business and they provide an extensive range of entrepreneurship promotional, advisory and funding schemes, including in the industrial sectors.

Similarly, Enterprise Ireland continues to work with early stage businesses and entrepreneurs on high potential business ideas and with the ambition to internationalise.

More generally, Intreo Offices throughout the country actively engaged with employers and those looking for employment opportunities and have a very good knowledge of openings and opportunities in the industrial sector at local level.

My colleagues, Minister Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and Minister Roderic O’Gorman TD, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, may be able to assist you further on what incentives are available for young people for participation in the industrial sector.

Foreign Direct Investment

 22. 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 a demand still exists for the location of international call centres in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9325/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The international call centre industry, or the Customer Experience industry as is it also known, 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.

  Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 13.

Enterprise Data

 24. 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 the workforce here continues to have the increased skills necessary to meet modern market requirements; the extent to which this issue continues to be examined and addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9327/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department is aware that it is essential that Irish enterprise has access to high-quality, adaptable and flexible talent. In order to meet this demand, the Government is committed to building and retaining a highly skilled workforce to serve the needs of the economy.

  This goal is set out under the framework of an overarching skills development strategy, Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025, which sets out a vision of how Ireland can continue to develop relevant skills and ensure that the supply of skills is activated and effectively used.

  This is particularly important in the context of the pandemic, which has accelerated some deep structural shifts that were already in train across the economy, particularly when it comes to the twin transitions- digital and green. We know that many of the jobs that exist today may not exist by the end of this decade, but we also know there will be new jobs and new occupations and new businesses.

  The sophisticated skills architecture established in Ireland is key in identifying and responding to skills gaps as identified by enterprise and education and training providers. It constitutes the following elements:

  National Skills Council (NSC): The NSC was established in 2017. It provides a mechanism for mediating demands on resources in a manner that facilitates prioritisation of identified skills needs, while at the same time enhancing education and training provider responses to and delivery of these identified needs. The Council draws on the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS, and the Regional Skills Fora.

  A network of 9 Regional Skills Fora fosters close co-operation at regional level between education and training providers and regional enterprise. The Fora provide a cohesive education-led structure for employers and the further education and higher education system to work together in building the skills needs of their regions.

  The EGFSN is an independent, non-statutory body, which includes representatives from the business community, trade unions, and a number of Government Departments and agencies. It identifies the skills required by enterprise across occupations and sectors, as well as providing information to education and training providers to allow them to support the alignment of programmes with employers’ needs. My Department provides the EGFSN with research and secretariat support.

  The Government is supporting participation in upskilling and reskilling through a range of education and training programmes informed by this labour market and skills intelligence, which are funded through the National Training Fund. These include Skillnet Ireland, the Higher Education Authority’s Springboard+ programme, apprenticeships and digital upskilling programmes such as SOLAS’s Skills to Advance and Skills to Compete. The National Training Fund is also supporting an annual €60 million investment in the Higher Education system, through the Human Capital Initiative.

  As part of the July 2020 Jobs Stimulus, the Government also introduced a series of initiatives focused on workforce upskilling and the skilling or reskilling of new workforce entrants and those made redundant by the pandemic. These include:

  - 35,000 additional places in further and higher education

  - A Retrofit Skills Training Initiative, to support future expansion of the National Retrofitting Programme; and

  - An Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, to support employers to take on new apprentices in 2020. This has been extended into 2021.

  Through the agencies and initiatives mentioned above my Department and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science will continue to ensure that an adequate and appropriately skilled workforce remains readily available to meet modern market requirements.


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