I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.
Under the terms of the Employment Agency Act, 1971, a person shall not carry on the business of an employment agency except under, and in accordance with, a licence under that Act.
The primary instrument by which employment agency activity is monitored/regulated is the licensing scheme itself. Licences are issued to applicants only when they have fulfilled, to the full satisfaction of my Department, the relevant governing conditions as laid down by the 1971 Act and by regulations made there under.
These conditions are designed, in the main, to ensure that only persons who are of good character and who carry on employment agency business from premises which are suitable for that purpose are granted licences. In assessing applications, my Department operates a policy of strict adherence to all of the licensing criteria. Monitoring activity also involves the checking of daily newspapers to ensure that employment agencies which advertise are licensed in accordance with the Act.
There has been one prosecution of an employment agency for operating without a licence under the 1971 Act over the past five years. This prosecution took place earlier this year.
With regard to complaints, the Deputy will wish to know that during the past 12 months, my Department received a number of telephone complaints and inquiries regarding the operation of employment agencies. In all cases, the provisions of the 1971 Act were explained to complainants and it transpired that there was no breach of the Act involved in any of these cases. As a result, follow up action by my Department was not called for, and a record of the exact number of such complaints was not maintained.
I should add, however, that in the event of a complaint against a particular agency requiring further follow-up action the labour inspectors of my Department, of which there are 17, are empowered under the Act to investigate any such complaint. Such an investigation would normally result in a visit to the premises of the agency involved.
Question No. 210 with Question No. 209 and Question No. 211 with Question No. 208.