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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 18 May 1993

Vol. 430 No. 8

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Restrictive Practices.

Richard Bruton


18 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he will give details of the scope of the programme of proposals which he has promised by the end of 1993 to deal with restrictions that limit the entry of suitably qualified people or firms into trades, professions and services.

The Government has endorsed the view of the Moriarty Task Force on Culliton that greater competition should continue to be promoted in all markets for goods and services in Ireland. The Competition Act, 1991, is the primary instrument for the implementation of this policy.

We are also aware that there are many areas of economic activity where competition is prevented or hindered through regulatory measures or administrative restrictions. Our aim is to examine all areas, including existing legislation, which act directly or indirectly to limit or restrict competition, while at the same time respecting the public interest criteria which may have given rise to the regulations in the first place, if these criteria are still relevant.

Regulation is so far as it is necessary must be proportionate in its intent and the regulatory environment must not prevent effective competition. Many regulations, including licensing arrangements, need to be re-evaluated in the context of a changing economic environment. Regulations formulated decades ago and in different market conditions may not be the most suitable for today.

Our examination will include the private and public sectors. It will cover the professions, including those previously studied by the former Fair Trade Commission.

Does the Minister propose to meet the deadline set by Moriarty of having a specific programme of reforms in place by the end of the year? Will the Minister clarify the sort of arrangements he is investigating? Will he investigate issues such as taxi licences, pub licences and so on? What sort of restrictions is the Minister reviewing?

Obviously we will not meet all the deadlines all the time but it is our intention to work towards meeting them. With regard to the licences, we will be reviewing any kind of licence or restrictive practice in the light of modern conditions and requirements.

Does that include monopolies in the private or public sectors? It is clear that there are cases of abuses of dominant positions which lead to restrictive practices in some major operations in this country. Does the Minister accept that in general monopolies are bad and lead to restrictive practices in those areas?

The note I have refers to commercial State sponsored companies which would include existing monopolies.

Did the Minister say in future when restrictive practices are corrected that, for instance, taxi licences will be freely available?

Nice try Deputy, but I did not say that.

Did you not confirm it in your reply?

I said that we would look at all kinds of practices and licences to ensure maximum efficiency within the context of the modern economic requirement. I did not say taxi licences would be freely available.