Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 54, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 55 to 62, inclusive, answered orally.

Job Creation

Richard Bruton

Question:

63 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he is satisfied that the measures in place to counter youth unemployment and emigration are adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2554/11]

The primary objective of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place to support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. The policies developed by this Government to accelerate and improve the transition of young people from education into the labour market are based on three main pillars:

1. Expanding provision in the higher education sector (i.e. full time and part time Further Education places) and providing more flexible access to the education system.

In 2011 it is expected that 170,000 full time and part time Further Education places and 156,000 full time Higher Education places will be provided. The bulk of this provision is open to persons under 25 years of age, when they meet the relevant criteria. The creation of a new €20 million Higher Education Activation Fund announced last month by the Tánaiste will extend the range of upskilling opportunities available for unemployed people.

2. The re-configuration of government departments announced by the Government in April 2010 — involving the merger of the FÁS public employment service and the benefits agency under the Department of Social Protection — will facilitate a more comprehensive and effective activation strategy that will strengthen the links between getting benefits, searching for a job and participating in employment and training programmes.

3. Enhancing Active Labour Market Policies aimed at young people including

Maintaining support for redundant apprentices;

Responding to the needs of low or semi-skilled young persons who have limited qualifications;

Strengthened framework of work experience opportunities through:

The introduction of the new Skills Development and Internship Programme;

Additional placements on the Work Placement Programme.

In summary, the Government will continue to provide a diverse range of labour market activation provision to the unemployed, including those under 25 years of age. This will aim to keep young people active, close to the labour market and equipped to take up the employment opportunities anticipated under the Government's plans to generate 300,000 jobs through trade, tourism and investment by the end of 2015.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 62.

County Enterprise Boards

Seán Barrett

Question:

65 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the current position on the future of microfinance from county enterprise boards. [2551/11]

The role of the County and City Enterprise Boards is to support the micro-enterprise sector in the start-up and expansion phases, to develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs provide both financial and non-financial assistance to eligible micro-enterprises in pursuit of this role and they are the primary initial contact point for business start-ups in Ireland.

The CEBs are delivering a range of practical targeted supports to the micro-enterprise sector with the aim of enabling businesses in that sector to not alone survive the economic downturn but to grow and to create sustainable employment within their local area. In 2009 a detailed review of the suite of financial supports available from the CEBs was undertaken as there had been no change to the types of financial assistance on offer since the establishment of the CEBs in 1993.

As a result of the review a significant broadening of the financial supports that the CEBs could offer their clients came into effect in early 2010. The effect of these changes was to broaden the scope of the start up and development costs to businesses that would be eligible for support from the CEBs, to allow greater flexibility in how the CEBs support start-up and small growing enterprises and to align the CEB supports more closely with those of the other enterprise support agencies and to ensure a greater consistency in approach. I am satisfied, therefore, that the current suite of financial supports available from the CEBs to the micro-enterprise sector is properly tailored to meet the needs of that sector and I have no plans at present to change these supports or to introduce any other form of microfinance to be delivered by the CEBs.

However, I would stress that it is a clear and absolute priority of this Government to ensure that the broader issue of the availability of credit to the small business sector is being addressed. To this end this Government has, of course, already secured a commitment from the main lenders, AIB and Bank of Ireland, to make available not less than €12 billion in total for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs over 2010 and 2011, including funds for working capital. I would also add that the budget allocation, which has been made available to the CEBs in 2011 for the delivery of supports to the micro-enterprise sector, has not been reduced from 2010 levels notwithstanding the obvious pressures on the public finances. This is a clear indication of this Government's commitment to ensuring that the State continues to play its part in supporting micro-enterprise survival and growth.

In addition to the supports available from the CEBs Enterprise Ireland, also, of course, provide a comprehensive range of supports to indigenous enterprises. Enterprise Ireland's remit covers the stimulation and development of start-ups that have the potential to employ more than 10 people and to achieve €1 million in exports. Such start-ups are typically highly innovative and are in a position to sell globally from their earliest stage. Some of these companies start off as clients of the CEBs in their initial start-up and development phases and then transfer to EI as they develop further into high potential and exporting businesses.

The complementary remit and activities of both Enterprise Ireland and the CEBs ensure that as broad a suite as possible of State financial supports are available to the micro-enterprise and small business sectors. My belief is that the supports offered by the CEBs and Enterprise Ireland should be as seamless as possible and should facilitate further the transition from an innovative micro start-up to a high-potential exporting SME. I am examining ways in which this might best be achieved and I intend to bring proposals to Government in this regard.

Departmental Agencies

Simon Coveney

Question:

66 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation when the proposal to merge the Competition Authority with the consumer agency was first made and when it will be completed. [2567/11]

The amalgamation of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency was announced in October 2008 as part of the rationalisation plan for State agencies during the 2009 Budget speech. As both the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority were established under statute, it is necessary to give effect to the newly merged body by way of primary legislation. Since the date of the announcement my Department has been working, in conjunction with both bodies and the Department of Finance to bring about a smooth transition to a unified single body to oversee the area of competition and consumer protection.

At the time the merger of the two bodies was announced, work on the review of the operation and implementation of the 2002 Competition Act was underway. Submissions received following a public consultation process were being considered as was the report and recommendations of the Advisory Group on Media Mergers. Rather than give effect to the amalgamation of the Authority and NCA in a stand-alone piece of legislation, to be followed in due course by legislation to amend, reform and update the 2002 Act, it was decided to introduce a single comprehensive Bill that will:

create the new consumer and competition body,

update competition law,

strengthen the public interest test in respect of media mergers, in line with the report of the Advisory Group on Media Mergers,

make some minor amendments to the consumer protection legislation, and

give effect to the Government commitment under "Towards 2016" regarding the exemption of certain specified categories of vulnerable workers from competition law.

While work on the draft legislation on this basis was progressing, a number of other developments arose which have led to additional requirements in the Bill. The Renewed Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to "implement a Code of Practice for doing business in the Grocery Goods sector to develop a fair trading relationship between retailers and their suppliers" and "to review progress of the Code and if necessary to put in place a mandatory code". Provision to place a code for retailers and suppliers on a statutory basis will be included in the proposed Bill.

This all-encompassing approach to the draft legislation has to some extent delayed the legislation for rationalisation of the two bodies. I am, however, of the view that we will be better served in the long run by a single legislative measure that both establishes the new body and provides for a combined and updated consumer and competition code with appropriate enforcement provisions being given to the new body. Draft Heads of the Bill have been completed and circulated to Ministers for their views. It is my intention to bring these Heads to Government shortly for approval to draft the Bill.

Public Sector Pay Agreements

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

67 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the savings that will be achieved through the Croke Park agreement within his Department and its agencies. [2583/11]

The Croke Park Agreement has committed the Civil and Public Service management to working with their staff to increase efficiency and reduce costs across the public sector. In that regard, my Department and our Agencies submitted Croke Park Implementation Plans last October to the Department of Finance and the Agreement "Implementation Body" for consideration. We submitted updated Plans on 6th January to reflect the implications of Budget 2011 and the National Recovery Plan and we await a response from the Department of Finance and the Implementation Body on our proposals.

Due to the nature of public expenditure generally, the area where greatest savings could be shown would be via a reduction in pay budgets — that is, reducing numbers in the Civil and Public Service. Through the effects of the various "exit" schemes and the moratorium on recruitment, staff levels in my Department have already dropped significantly. Since the coming into operation of the Incentivised "Exit" Schemes and the moratorium on recruitment in Spring 2009, overall staffing numbers have fallen by over 9% while demand for services has increased.

My Department's Croke Park Implementation Plan has sought to combine high-level proposals which will impact across the Department and our Agencies together with individual items that will have a more local impact in a particular business area. In addition, implementation of some proposals are wholly dependent on the nature of how staff and Unions facilitate implementation of the mechanisms negotiated centrally to implement the agreement in areas such as general staff mobility, shared services and outsourcing.

In relation to the calculation of the savings that should accrue from implementation of the Plan, while some of the anticipated savings are relatively easy to calculate — for example where a change in work practices is anticipated to yield up a full post in a full year — it will only be as many of the other proposals are further developed and rolled-out that estimates of the potential cash savings can be provided. In addition, many of the proposals in our Draft Plan will lead to greater efficiencies, although not all will generate specific cash savings.

Furthermore, I might point out that the Plan has been set against increasing work volumes in certain areas of the Department. For example, many of the bodies in the Employment Rights disputes resolution family as well as a number of other "frontline" areas are already dealing with significantly increased workloads, while we expect increased demands across the Department arising from Ireland's EU Presidency in 2013.

Finally our Croke Park Implementation Plan — and those of our Agencies — must also be set against the backdrop of further reductions required of my Department and our Agencies resulting from implementation of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and the EU/IMF Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of late 2010. During the lifetime of the Croke Park Agreement, therefore, additional measures will be effected to achieve cost reductions to meet our NRP and other obligations and such additional measures will be incorporated into future iterations of the Croke Park Agreement Implementation Plan. Each iteration of our Plan, and our Progress Reports on Implementation, will be published on the Department and individual Agency websites.

INTERREG Funding

Arthur Morgan

Question:

68 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the progress being made by him in consultation with his counterpart in the Northern Ireland Assembly to draw up a joint proposal to apply for EU funding under the cross-Border INTERREG programme for start-up business supports and training initiatives; when he expects a draft proposal will be ready; when the application will be made to the EU; when funding can be expected to be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2638/11]

The Interreg Programme is the Cross-Border Territorial Co-operation Programme for Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland. The programme is 75% funded by the EU, through the European Regional Development Fund, and the remaining 25% is provided by the participating Member States, and has potential funding availability of €256 million.

Last May, following the Quinn Insurance redundancy announcement, I spoke to my Northern Ireland counterpart, Arlene Foster, MLA, about the possibility of our development agencies working together to develop proposals for submission under the cross-border Interreg Programme, under the next call for proposals. Arising from those discussions, development agencies, North and South, have engaged intensively on developing suitable projects. The most recent call for proposals under Interreg closes in February and it is intended that agency led or driven proposals will be submitted by then.

The managing authority for Interreg, the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), on receipt of project proposals will then engage in a series of assessments of projects which will include an initial eligibility assessment, scoring assessment, indications of potential support from authorities North and South, a detailed independent economic assessment and subsequent project consideration by a Programme Steering Committee. I am informed that the foregoing process will take a number of months to complete.

Enterprise Support Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

69 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the way cuts to enterprise development funding will be implemented; the way cuts to county enterprise development funding across the State will be implemented; the expected impact of these cuts; the reason enterprise development funding to county enterprise development and INTERREG enterprise development is being cut at a time when job creation by indigenous enterprises is vital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2641/11]

My Department's capital allocation for enterprise development is set out in the National Recovery Plan. The Plan underpins the work of the job creation and research agencies, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland and the County Enterprise Boards, by providing funding that will allow them to meet their ambitious targets. My Department's allocation under the Plan is €2.182bn for the period 2011-2014 — made up of €508m this year, and an increase to €558m annually between 2012 and 2014.

The Government — as these figures make clear — remains committed to investments that make the greatest contribution to economic recovery and underpin the creation of sustainable employment. Future capital investment must be targeted and employment-focused. The primary focus of investment must be on creating the framework conditions in which the enterprise sector can thrive in the medium to long term. Public capital investment will have its greatest impact by ensuring that sufficient capacity in the economy is maintained and productivity is enhanced.

The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving a return to economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and advancing the Smart Economy Agenda. The allocation of capital funding will ensure that the enterprise agencies' core programmes are sustained and targeted. This will include actions to position Ireland as a Global Innovation Hub.

Included in the allocation of €508m in the 2011 Estimates is a provision of €15m in respect of the Capital funding for the County and City Enterprise Boards, which is a slight increase on the 2010 Estimates allocation of €14.994m and, notwithstanding the increased demand for the services of the CEBs, represents a strong investment in the micro-enterprise sector at a time of severe pressure on the public finances. An allocation of €2m has been included for 2011 in respect of Interreg enterprise development. This is substantially higher than the level of expenditure for 2010.

Credit Availability

Billy Timmins

Question:

70 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he is satisfied that the existing examinership process is an effective instrument for protecting viable small businesses that encounter credit difficulties. [2600/11]

The existing examinership process is effective and fair for companies of all sizes, large and small. The examinership provisions are contained primarily in the Companies (Amendment) Act 1990, and are widely recognised to have operated successfully in the two decades since their introduction, a time period which has seen both sides of the economic cycle.

The fundamental principle of the examinership provisions is that they offer protection for a short period to a company which is considered by the Court to have a "reasonable prospect of survival". I would stress the importance of this test — the remedy of examinership is only intended to be availed of by a company which has a reasonable prospect of continuing on an ongoing basis after the examinership, and which has an underlying sound business model to continue. The examinership process is not, and was never intended to offer businesses an opportunity to walk away from debts or from amounts which are legitimately owed to other creditors. It must be remembered that the debts of any company do not exist in a vacuum. Often these debts are owed to other small businesses whose viability in turn may depend on the successful recovery of the amounts involved.

Representations have recently been made to my Department suggesting changes to the examinership process and which would significantly reduce the role of the courts — a form of "examinership lite". Given that successful examinerships inevitably involve losses for creditors — whose viability may also be at stake — it is critical that the process is not only fair but seen to be fair, and the role of the courts is not to be underestimated in this regard. Subject to the maintenance of this fairness criterion, I remain open to any suggestions that could improve the effectiveness of the process.

National Wage Agreements

Martin Ferris

Question:

71 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the status of the review of the framework of registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders as outlined in the national recovery plan; the person who is conducting this review; if there is a consultation process as part of this review; if any impact analysis is being carried out to complement this review; the consultation and dialogue that have been undertaken between him and the European Commission services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2643/11]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

97 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the process for the proposed review of the framework registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders arrangements, as promised in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2524/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 97 together.

The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 commits to a range of structural reforms to the labour market aimed at removing barriers to employment creation and disincentives to work; and at re-orientating activation measures. In this context, the Government committed to review the framework of Employment Regulation Orders (ERO) and Registered Employment Agreement (REA) wage-setting mechanism within a short timeframe.

The review is likely to take into account the views of the parties to REAs and EROs, as well as the variety of means through which these arrangements can evolve as a more streamlined, transparent and flexible means of wage-setting. It is expected that terms of reference for the review, including details of who will undertake it and the timescale in which it will be completed, will be agreed shortly, following consultation with the European Commission. It is expected that the review will commence in the coming weeks.

Business Regulation

Joe Costello

Question:

72 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the steps he is taking to counter the problem of unnecessary red tape faced by small companies, in particular, in regard to the interview he gave to a publication (details supplied) in which he said he had pioneered a Bill through Cabinet, aimed at giving relief to companies suffering from bureaucracy; the reason the Bill has not yet been published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2521/11]

Tom Hayes

Question:

81 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he is satisfied with the progress to date in delivery to the enterprise sector the promised €500 million reduction in unnecessary compliance costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2627/11]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

108 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he accepts that insufficient progress to date has been made in reducing the regulatory burden on businesses and that this has a negative effect on the encouragement of enterprise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2544/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 81 and 108 together.

International benchmarking statistics reveal that Ireland imposes a relatively low burden of regulation on business. The Forfás Annual Competitiveness Report 2010 states that Ireland's regulatory environment is one of the least restrictive in the OECD in relation to product market regulation, the time taken to comply with tax payments is one of the lowest in the OECD across all categories and Ireland's employment framework is less rigid than the OECD average.

The work to reduce red tape in Ireland is being progressed on two fronts. The High Level Group on Business Regulation works to fast-track simplifications to specific red tape issues identified by business; and an Inter-Departmental Group of officials from all Departments, having regulation affecting business, coordinates the measurement and reduction of administrative burdens in a systematic manner, based on the internationally recognized Standard Cost Model. The Government has decided in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 to bring forward the targeted 25% reduction of the regulatory burden on business from 2012 to end 2011.

To date the High Level Group has processed thirty specific red tape issues brought to its attention by business and continues to drive progress on a further thirty-eight items. The Group announced over €20m of annual business savings in its first Report and continues to work with business interests to identify opportunities for simplification. In addition, my Department is in the process of measuring other burden reductions achieved across Government. The results of this measurement exercise are expected to be published in the second half of 2011. Recent measurements by my Department have demonstrated a further potential €32.7m of savings for business, resulting from simplification in the company law area.

The measurement of administrative burdens using the Standard Cost Model is an exercise that was called for by business, as part of the 25% administrative burden reduction programme, and is being carried out on a prioritised basis across all Departments with any substantive regulation that affects business. My Department and the Central Statistics Office have already measured burdens arising from regulations under their responsibility and all other Departments will shortly measure the current costs on business arising from their regulation.

To ensure that the measurement exercise is consistent across Government, and is in accordance with the Standard Cost Model, the exercise does, and will, take some time to complete. This is a process that reaches into every corner of Government that has an impact on Business. Measurement is expected to be completed in 2011. Simplification plans will be developed and implemented following measurement. Business workshops have already been held to identify ideas for simplification in the areas of Company Law and Employment Law and Health & Safety Law, and draft simplification plans are currently being prepared for implementation.

Job Creation

Seymour Crawford

Question:

73 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the number of new jobs announced, created and actually delivered in each of the counties of Cavan and Monaghan in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; the number of itinerary trips to the counties that were sponsored by State agencies to promote job creation; if he is satisfied that enough effort is being made in the Border area in view of all the problems this area has suffered over a long number of years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2541/11]

Figures in relation to jobs created by the enterprise development agency are compiled annually in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey. The most up to date figures available are for 2009. Set out in Tables 1 and 2 accompanying this reply are the figures in respect of jobs created in firms supported by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, together with those assisted by the County Enterprise Boards in 2008 and 2009 in the counties in question. As the information is compiled on an annualised basis, I expect the figures in respect of 2010 to become available during the first quarter of this year.

In terms of job creation Budget 2011 saw €508 million in capital spending alone dedicated to driving Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth through increased exports, more foreign direct investments and the smart economy by significantly investing in research and development. This multi-billion capital investment in growth and jobs is routed through my Department and its agencies, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards. This investment and other measures outlined in the National Recovery Plan will support the achievement of the targets set out in the Government's Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy strategy, including the target to create 300,000 new direct and indirect jobs in the enterprise and tourism sectors by 2015. It will deliver nearly 30,000 new jobs in 2011, including both direct and indirect jobs, just from the IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland client base alone.

Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up new High potential Start Up Companies (HPSUs). Enterprise Ireland provides a range of supports such as financial supports, business and marketing advice, mentoring, product development etc. Since 2008 five new HPSUs have been approved in Co. Monaghan and two in Co. Cavan. Enterprise Ireland, over the period 2008 to date, approved €12,914,430 to companies based in Co. Cavan and €16,491,506 to companies based in Co. Monaghan.

IDA Ireland is fully committed to securing a balance in regional development including winning investment for the Border Region including counties Cavan and Monaghan. As well as marketing the Border Region for new Greenfield investment, IDA continues to work with existing clients there in order that they might broaden their mandate in Ireland and continue to re-invest in their sites within the Region.

During 2011, the CEBs located across the border region will continue to be actively involved in the area of economic development and will ensure that available funds are targeted to maximise entrepreneurial development. This will be done not just by direct grant aid to businesses and project promoters but also through the provision of a range of other important business supports such as mentoring, business training and business advice, all of which help to stimulate indigenous enterprise creation.

As the Enterprise Ireland and CEB portfolios of indigenous client companies are of their nature not very mobile, therefore these bodies arranged no itinerary visits. Between 2008-2010 there were two IDA sponsored itinerary visits to Co. Cavan.

Table 1: Number of Jobs Created in Enterprise Agency-supported Companies & CEB-supported Companies in Co. Cavan

2008

2009

Enterprise Agency-supported Companies

834.0

91

CEB-supported Companies

47.5

51

Table 2: Number of Jobs Created in Enterprise Agency-supported Companies & CEB-supported Companies in Co. Monaghan

2008

2009

Enterprise Agency-supported Companies

356.0

126.0

CEB-supported Companies

19.5

15.5

Enterprise Support Services

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

74 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the progress made regarding the commitment given in the renewed programme for Government to establish community and development agencies as a one-stop-shop for advice on grant supports, business opportunities, training and development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2532/11]

The network of County and City Enterprise Boards, which come under the auspices of my Department, are the primary initial contact point for business start-ups in Ireland. The CEBs can assist micro-enterprises i.e. businesses with 10 employees or fewer and are to the forefront in supporting viable business start-ups and in assisting the development of growth-orientated micro-enterprises which can generate job creation at a local level and which, over time, can develop into strong export entities and transfer to the Enterprise Ireland portfolio.

The CEBs can provide both direct financial assistance in the form of Priming Grants, Business Expansion Grants and Feasibility Grants and non-financial assistance in the form of Programmes such as Start Your Own Business Programmes, Business Training and Management Programmes, Mentoring Programmes etc. In providing support to the micro-enterprise sector the CEBs must give priority to manufacturing and internationally traded services. The CEBs work closely with other Agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and with other Bodies active in their local area such as LEADER, Partnership Groups etc and where a CEB is not in a position to support a client they will direct them to another appropriate organisation.

I am keen to ensure that the synergies between the CEBs and Enterprise Ireland are maximised, and that engagement with the development agencies is as seamless as possible for all small businesses including the important micro sector.

EU Directives

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

75 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the current position and time frame for the transposition of the services directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2535/11]

As I stated in my reply to Deputy Kathleen Lynch on 2nd December 2010 (Ref. No. 45550/10), the European Union (Provision of Services) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 533 of 2010) were signed into law by me on 10th November 2010. The Regulations give effect in Ireland to the Services Directive, with the exception of Article 42 of the Directive, which was transposed by the European Communities (Court Orders for the Protection of Consumer Interests) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 555 of 2010), which I signed into law on 23rd November 2010.

The second set of Regulations also transpose Directive 2009/22/EC on injunctions for the protections of consumers' interests (codified version) and revoke the European Communities (Protection of Consumers Collective Interests) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 449 of 2001), which transposed the original Injunctions Directive. The Injunctions Directive ensures that consumers' rights, as set out in a number of other consumer Directives, can be protected by providing a means by which Member States can bring an action to stop any breaches of consumer rights under the Directives in question.

The decision to transpose Article 42 of the Services Directive in the European Communities (Court Orders for the Protection of Consumer Interests) Regulations 2010 was taken for reasons of legal clarity. Article 42 adds the Services Directive to the list of Directives that are covered by the Injunctions Directive.

Business Regulation

Dinny McGinley

Question:

76 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the systems he has in place to assess the cost of competitiveness impact on Irish business from Government legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2579/11]

The Department of the Taoiseach has primary responsibility for the development and implementation of Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) measures across Government Departments. The Department of the Taoiseach has published the Revised Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) Guidelines on its website: http://www.betterregulation.ie/eng/Publications/Revised_RIA_Guidelines.pdf. The RIA Guidelines require all proposed regulations to be examined as to whether they could impact on Ireland's business and work environment; economic and technological infrastructure; education and skills; entrepreneurship and enterprise development; and innovation and creativity.

In parallel with this, my Department is progressing work on the reduction of red tape on two fronts. The High Level Group on Business Regulation (HLG) works to fast-track simplifications to specific red tape issues identified by business; and an Inter-Departmental Group of officials from all Departments having regulation affecting business, coordinates the measurement and reduction of administrative burdens in a systematic manner, based on the internationally recognised Standard Cost Model. The Government has decided in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 to bring forward the targeted 25% reduction of the regulatory burden on business from 2012 to end 2011.

To date the High Level Group has processed thirty specific red tape issues brought to its attention by business and continues to drive progress on a further thirty-eight items. The Group announced over €20m of annual business savings in its first Report and continues to work with business interests to identify opportunities for simplification. In addition, my Department is in the process of measuring other burden reductions achieved across Government. The results of this measurement exercise are expected to be published in the second half of 2011. Recent measurements by my Department have demonstrated a further potential €32.7m of savings for business, resulting from simplification in the company law area.

The measurement of administrative burdens using the Standard Cost Model is an exercise that was called for by business, as part of the 25% administrative burden reduction programme, and is being carried out on a prioritised basis across all Departments with any substantive regulation that affects business. My Department and the Central Statistics Office have already measured burdens arising from regulations under their responsibility and all other Departments will shortly measure the current costs on business arising from their regulation.

To ensure that the measurement exercise is consistent across Government, and is in accordance with the Standard Cost Model, the exercise does, and will, take some time to complete. This is a process that reaches into every corner of Government that has an impact on Business. Measurement is expected to be completed in 2011. Simplification plans will be developed and implemented following measurement. Business workshops have already been held to identify ideas for simplification in the areas of Company Law and Employment Law and Health & Safety Law, and draft simplification plans are currently being prepared for implementation.

Employment Rights

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

77 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the serious concerns expressed at the long delays facing persons in having cases heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal; if he will confirm that some persons face delays of up to 18 months; the average time for having a case heard; the steps being taken to speed up the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2518/11]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) is one of the front-line services directly affected by the current turbulence in the labour market. The Tribunal hears claims under 18 separate pieces of legislation. Some claims, like Unfair Dismissal cases, are complex and can take up to 4 days. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of claims coming to the Tribunal trebled. While there has been a slight (7%) decrease in new claims lodged in 2010, the large volume of claims has had an impact on case processing timeframes.

I am informed that the longest recorded waiting periods at the end of December ranged from 54 weeks to 77 weeks. In the case of hearings concerning redundancy claims, the range was between 25 weeks and 65 weeks. These figures can be somewhat misleading. The Tribunal conducts hearings in about 36 locations. Where the number of cases is relatively small, the Tribunal may wait until a sufficient number of cases is on hand to make a visit worthwhile. In such areas, 5 days of Hearings may reduce the "waiting time" in the area concerned by 30 to 40 weeks.

I understand that the Tribunal targets areas with the longest waiting period and highest level of claims outstanding, within the resources it has currently available. Efficiencies introduced have increased the Tribunal's output. Over 6,000 claims were processed between January and the end of December 2010, which is more than double the number of cases processed in 2007.

A business process review of the Tribunal is being conducted to find further efficiencies. I am also making additional staff available to the Tribunal within the next few weeks with a view to enabling it to increase the number of Hearings in Dublin, and also to establish a specialist Division for the hearing of redundancy-related cases. In a recent pilot project in Cork, the temporary deployment of an extra Division there, with a special focus on redundancy-related cases, allowed the waiting-time for such cases to be reduced from 44.5 weeks to 19.5 weeks.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

78 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation when he intends to publish anti-victimisation legislation, designed to protect those workers who choose to join a trade union and which was promised by March 2009 under the review of Towards 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2538/11]

Liz McManus

Question:

100 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans to publish legislation to address employee representation at work which was promised by June 2009 under the review of Towards 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2527/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 100 together.

TheTowards 2016 Review and Transitional Agreement 2008 — 2009 (paras 9.1 — 9.3) provides for the establishment of a review process to consider the legal and other steps necessary to enable the employee representation mechanisms that had been established under previous agreements — and in legislation — to operate as they had been intended. The Agreement (para 9.4) also commits the Government to bringing forward legislative proposals to prohibit the victimisation of trade union members and to prohibit the incentivisation of persons not to be members of a trade union.

In furtherance to these commitments, two informal meetings took place in late 2009, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and at which my Department; the Department of Finance; trade unions; and employers were represented. Position papers were prepared by the employer and trade union representatives on the issues which they saw as requiring to be addressed by any new legislation in this area. While consideration will continue within Government on proposals to address the issues involved, progress in bringing the work to a conclusion will have to take account of other priority legislative commitments to be delivered in the employment area, resource constraints within Departments, and the extent of agreement between the trade union and employer sides in this area.

Industrial Development

John Perry

Question:

79 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans to introduce additional measures to assist the domestic non-export sector of the economy, over and above existing measures. [2650/11]

As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, I acknowledge the important contribution that locally available goods and services make to employment and to Ireland's economy. Many of the policies set out in the National Recovery Plan aimed at restoring national competitiveness will impact positively on businesses operating in the non-export sector of the economy. These businesses will benefit from reduced costs which the Government aims to achieve in the areas of energy, waste, professional services and public administration. The reduction in the minimum wage and the review of Registered Employment Agreements and Employment Regulation Orders will also lead to reduced costs of doing business throughout all sectors of the economy.

Despite the economic downturn, the Government is continuing to invest heavily in Capital infrastructure. The National Recovery Plan is clear that future Capital investment must be targeted and employment-focused. The Government's investment in water services and the installation of domestic water meters is one example of where employment and growth opportunities will be created for many domestic companies.

Among the other measures proposed in the National Recovery Plan to assist the local construction sector is the support of jobs through energy efficient activities such as the National Retrofit Programme. The aim of this programme is to stimulate investment in the energy efficiency market, creating in excess of 5,000 jobs in the energy and construction sectors. In his Budget speech on 7 December 2010, the Minister for Finance also announced his intention to introduce a new tax incentive in the area of energy efficiency in homes, which will further support jobs in this sector.

Access to credit is, of course, important for all businesses. In this context, I have ongoing contact with the main banks in relation to their lending to businesses. Together with my colleague the Minister for Finance, and Mr. John Trethowan of the Credit Review Office, I will continue to ensure that the banks meet their lending commitments under the 2010 Recapitalisation package in terms of providing sufficient credit to the business sector. Mr. Trethowan recently indicated that the situation was much more positive for bank customers than it was six to nine months ago.

I believe that the additional measures as set out in the National Recovery Plan, together with better access to bank credit, will greatly enhance the development and long-term viability of the domestic sector of the economy and contribute to our national recovery.

Innovation Fund

Olwyn Enright

Question:

80 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the progress to date in establishing the €250 million innovation fund overseen by Enterprise Ireland; the number of new projects funded and their aggregate employment potential. [2616/11]

I announced the first call for expressions of interest in Innovation Fund Ireland on 23 September 2010. Enterprise Ireland and the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) will manage the Fund and investors had until 26th November 2010 to signal their interest in establishing a presence here. Now that this deadline has passed, Enterprise Ireland and the NPRF are in the process of evaluating the 32 expressions of interest received.

The €250 million available under the fund will run along two parallel tracks. The first comprises a €125 million pool of funds provided by the Exchequer and managed by Enterprise Ireland. Successful applicants who receive an investment from Enterprise Ireland will have to commit to investing an equivalent amount in Irish companies or companies with substantial Irish operations over the lifetime of their fund. The second is for a similar amount and designed to allow Ireland's NPRF to make a similar level of commercial investments assuming its criteria are met.

Jobs created through the Fund will depend on the investments made and the decisions of independent venture capital fund managers. The nature of such funds and the independence of decision making by the relevant fund managers means it is not possible to provide projections of jobs created at this point in the process. International economic growth and new innovations in the technology, life sciences and clean technology spheres over the coming years are other factors that will impact on the level and type of jobs created.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 72.

Credit Availability

Catherine Byrne

Question:

82 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his views on whether any initiative is needed from him to improve access to credit for small business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2558/11]

I have ongoing contact with the main banks in relation to their lending to businesses and will, together with my colleague the Minister for Finance, and John Trethowan of the Credit Review Office, continue to ensure that they meet their lending commitments under the 2010 Recapitalisation package in terms of providing sufficient credit to the business sector. In this regard, John Trethowan recently indicated that the situation was much more positive for bank customers than it was six to nine months ago. As part of his Second Quarterly Report on SME Lending published on 18 November 2010, John Trethowan indicated that each of the banks have shown a positive attitude to the Credit Review Office appeals process, and the banks' Executives have been asked to ensure that this attitude is shared with their front-line staff.

My officials are also working with their colleagues in the Department of Finance, the Credit Review Office, Enterprise Ireland and Forfás to address access to credit issues for viable SMEs, including the option of a loan guarantee scheme to assist their working capital. It is important, however, that any new initiatives complement, rather than substitute, the main banks' lending commitments and activities under the 2010 recapitalisation package and that they would represent value for money from the taxpayer's perspective. Loan guarantees are just one of a range of possible measures being considered to address SME credit availability. Proposals for any new measures will have to be considered by Government in the first instance.

The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 also sets out specific actions to spur further improvements in competitiveness across all sectors of the economy including measures to cut costs to business in energy, waste and transport, professional fees and property. The Plan also includes measures that will ensure that barriers to employment creation are removed.

There are specific actions which will benefit small businesses including, the review of the Business Expansion Scheme, the extension of the 15 day prompt payment rule to the wider public sector and the use of public property for incubator centres. In addition, capital investment for the Enterprise Development Agencies has been prioritised with €2.2 billion being allocated to support indigenous firms, win foreign direct investment and support research, development and innovation.

The Government has also over the last two years, introduced a number of initiatives to improve the availability of funding to the small business sector, including:

The commitment by AIB and Bank of Ireland under the 2010 Recapitalisation package of a further €20 million each for Seed Capital to be provided to Enterprise Ireland-supported ventures.

The Finance Act 2010 provided for the start-up company exemption to be extended into 2010 encouraging both entrepreneurship and economic activity.

The establishment of the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund to support viable but vulnerable exporting companies, experiencing difficulties because of the economic climate. This Fund supplies direct financial support to internationally trading enterprises by supporting their drive to reduce costs and through increased competitiveness, gain sales in overseas markets. To date, 242 projects have been approved funding of €86.2m to sustain over 10,000 jobs throughout Ireland.

The Government is also encouraging employers to create new jobs through reducing the costs associated with employment through the Employer Jobs (PRSI) Incentive Scheme. For each new eligible job, the scheme gives an 8%-10% saving on employment costs for the first year of employment. This will actively encourage the creation of new employment now when it is most needed.

All of these initiatives build on the existing range of supports and tax arrangements to encourage and sustain business activity. The services provided by the Enterprise Development Agencies are kept under review and will be adjusted to respond to the current economic situation. These Agencies continually review their activities in the light of international developments, national priorities and best practice.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

83 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will indicate if his Department has the authority to introduce the proposed loan guarantee scheme for the small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2621/11]

My officials are working with their colleagues in the Department of Finance, the Credit Review Office, Enterprise Ireland and Forfás to address access to credit issues for viable SMEs, including the option of a loan guarantee scheme to assist the working capital requirements of SMEs. The Working Group has received updated analysis from Forfás and Enterprise Ireland to allow greatest possible targeting of any initiative on viable, innovative and growth-orientated SMEs who face a specific market failure — namely where institutions have difficulty in applying existing credit policies and products. This can be, for example, due to lack of familiarity with certain sectors, markets and business models.

Substantial progress has been made in identifying the critical elements involved in any further initiatives. It would be important that any such initiatives would complement, rather than substitute, the main banks' lending commitments and activities under the 2010 recapitalisation package and that they would represent value for money from the taxpayer's perspective. The provision of credit to our enterprise sector, especially SME's, should primarily come from a properly functioning banking sector and any additional initiatives on the State's part should not relieve the banks of their obligations in this regard.

As indicated already, Loan Guarantees, are just one of a range of possible measures being considered to address SME credit availability. As part of the Government's strategy both AIB and Bank of Ireland have committed to lending €12billion for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs over two years. AIB and Bank of Ireland are also subject to the Credit Review process. All SME businesses that have had credit refused or withdrawn, can apply for an independent review of the bank's decision after the internal appeal. The Credit Review Office in its second quarterly report expresses its view that the recapitalisation strategy for the two banks is now achieving its objective of ensuring that a functioning banking system is in place to support economic activity. Proposals in relation to any new measures will have to be considered by Government in the first instance.

Enterprise Support Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

84 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the steps he has taken or proposes to take to ensure utilisation of innovation and the knowledge based economy to further assist those sectors of the economy currently competing effectively in the European and global markets with particular reference to companies with a good track record in this regard with a view to using such competitive and innovative companies to spearhead economic recovery and identifying any specific obstacles to such progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2648/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent to which he and or his Department has used innovation to enhance exports, secure new contracts and generally assist economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2892/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the degree to which it is intended to utilise technology and innovation to assist manufacturing and services sectors in the current economic climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2897/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84, 186 and 190 together.

Over the past ten years Ireland has built up a strong science base and has significantly improved its international standing for scientific output. In parallel, the Government has identified a programme of actions, such as those outlined in "Building Ireland's Smart Economy", that place particular emphasis on the role of knowledge and innovation in driving economic productivity. The work of three agencies, operating under the auspices of my Department, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland, has been focused on delivering supports to enterprise — both directly and indirectly — that will ensure that trade, exports and investment are positioned to retain sustainability and to ensure that emerging opportunities can be maximised as the global economy recovers.

The future for Irish companies and the Irish economy will be significantly determined by the ability to take advantage of global opportunities. Because export led growth is identified as the spearhead of economic recovery, the nurturing of high-quality, innovative and internationally competitive Irish companies is clearly fundamental to Ireland's future prosperity. The Irish economy will need to have sharp and adaptable business activity in a wide variety of sectors so as to be in a position to compete effectively in the European and global markets and win export sales in order to create sustainable jobs in Ireland.

The competitive advantage created by innovation will be a key driver in achieving Irish economic recovery. Companies that undertake Research and Development have shown a level of growth in trade and exports during the downturn that demonstrates the value of productive, high calibre research and innovation activity. Every day, Irish companies are winning and servicing global sales contracts across a range of modern growth industries and both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland work with Irish based companies to support this effort. The supports include driving innovation and new product development, in addition to identifying, targeting and delivering on export sales throughout the world; addressing competitiveness issues and helping to raise finance. All these supports are ultimately geared towards driving growth, sustainability, exports and job creation.

Examples of specific measures and initiatives that ensure that the knowledge-based economy has contributed to assisting Irish enterprise to participate in the drive for economic recovery include:

R&D Funding through Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland

Supports for new start-up companies with the potential to achieve significant exports;

Competence Centres established in strategically important sectoral areas like nanotechnology and bioenergy. These €5m centres are designed to allow groups of multinational and indigenous firms to work together with academics to undertake cutting edge, industry led research. Additional funding has been provided to increase the number of Competence Centres to 16 by 2015.

524 Innovation Vouchers were redeemed in 2010 worth over €2.5m, bringing the total number of Innovation Vouchers redeemed since the scheme opened to over 1,000.

In 2010, over 50 pieces of commercially relevant technology were transferred from State Funded Research into industry.

In addition over 20 new start-up enterprises were "spun out" of the third level system.

Over 40 companies were also supported to undertake significant collaborative projects with colleges in 2010.

Collaboration between SFI funded researchers and industry has also increased significantly in recent years largely through the SFI Centres for Science Engineering Technology (CSETs), Strategic Research Clusters (SRCs) and the Principal Investigator (PI) teams. At present SFI is supporting 29 top-class research centres (9 CSETs and 20 SRCs) and SFI funded researchers are collaborating with over 400 industry partners, both multinational and indigenous.

Both in 2009 and 2010, close to half IDA investments were in research, development and innovation, and these investments are central to productivity and new business development in the multi-national sector.

In addition to an innovative portfolio of export ready products and services, many companies also benefit from "on the ground" intelligence and contacts within prospective markets in order to help them win sales and obtain opportunities to showcase their innovative capabilities to key global influencers and buyers. Enterprise Ireland's offices in 31 cities throughout the world provide one-to-one support to Irish companies. These international offices also organise group events such as trade missions, trade fairs and visits from international buyers to Ireland. In 2010 more than 165 events were organised, including international trade missions led by An Taoiseach and Government Ministers to strategic overseas markets including Russia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Brazil, USA and Australia.

As part of a suite of policy initiatives to position Ireland as a Global Innovation Hub, Innovation Fund Ireland was established to build on existing enterprise policies. The objective of the Fund is to increase the availability of capital for enterprise and to transform the venture capital market by attracting top tier Fund managers to Ireland. Over the lifetime of the Funds, the State expects real economic growth as a result of investments in Irish start-up, scaling companies or other companies with operations in Ireland. This will deliver an increase in employment, an increase in the number of high potential start-up companies and the attraction of such companies spun out from European technology to Ireland. There will also be an increase in funding for commercialisation of the R&D coming out of the Universities and Institutes of Technology.

In order to ensure that sectors, including the manufacturing and services sectors, of the economy continue to compete effectively in European and global markets and to assist in economic recovery, numerous measures have been taken to help companies to achieve internationally high levels of innovation. Manufacturing is a vitally important sector for Ireland and increased competitiveness is an ongoing objective for Irish companies. Recognising the need to achieve substantially reduced costs, an innovation initiative known as the ‘lean agenda' has been developed by Enterprise Ireland to increase productivity and drive down costs. To date 71 companies have been approved funding, mostly in cleantech, electronics and lifesciences. Already, improvements in lead times, unit costs and profitability in the order of 10-15% have been achieved by participating companies and Enterprise Ireland will continue this drive in 2011.

The recovery of the food sector, Ireland's biggest indigenous industry, was a significant priority in 2010. Enterprise Ireland introduced special lean programmes for the food sector in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which has resulted in companies increasing productivity.

The impact of Ireland's export orientated initiatives is best demonstrated by the growth in export in the face of the current difficult economic climate. Enterprise Ireland estimates that its client companies grew export sales in 2010, recovering in the region of 70% of the losses made in 2009. These companies also reported an expansion in new export orders in every month in 2010 and this trend looks set to continue. It is expected that new export sales from Enterprise Ireland clients in the order of €1 billion in 2010.

The Irish economy has also seen strong activity at start up and expansion levels in lifesciences, bio-tech, medical technology, internet services, telecommunications, food, and other niche areas. Green technology is a key target area for development. These are sectors in which Irish firms can and do create a sustainable competitive advantage and build international market share.

There is a vibrant enterprise sector in Ireland that is world-class in its capacity and performance. There is a dynamic export sector, which is underpinned by our rapidly evolving scientific, technological and innovation base. Our competitiveness is based on merging these attributes with a commitment to sustained innovation that is unmatched in the markets in which we compete. Behind Ireland's export-led economy are the right enterprise infrastructure; sustained investment in innovation and entrepreneurship; and a Government commitment to supporting Innovation as a key driver to future recovery.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent to which he is developing Ireland’s competitiveness and productivity by creating the conditions where enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation can flourish and quality employment opportunities can arise, grow and be maintained in the export, wholesale and retail and commercial areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2647/11]

The role of Government is to create the economic conditions in which enterprise can grow and jobs can be created. The National Recovery Plan sets out how the Government intends to do this over the next four years, including actions which the Government will take to reduce costs for business across the economy. In this regard, I would refer the Deputy to the answer I provided to his question, no. 167 (45742/10) of 2nd December 2010 last for further details of the specific actions included in the Plan.

The actions which this Government has already taken have resulted in the fundamental pillars of our domestic economy stabilising and showing strong signs of a return to growth. In its reports published over the past year, the National Competitiveness Council has acknowledged that Ireland has already seen competitiveness gains in the period since January 2008. Ireland currently has the highest level of growth in industrial output in the Eurozone. According to the latest Eurostat figures, Ireland's industrial production was 14.2% higher in November 2010 than in November 2009. This increase was almost twice the Eurozone average increase of 7.4% for the period in question.

Our exports are increasing in both goods and services, with the latest figures from the CSO showing that exports for the first three quarters of 2010 were up 8.67%, or €9.37 billion, on the same period the previous year. Through the Government's strategy for "Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy", these increases in exports will continue to create jobs in the exporting sectors of the Irish economy, but will also lead to spin-off effects in the creation of new jobs in other domestically-trading sectors such as the wholesale, retail and commercial services sectors.

EU Directives

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

86 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding the draft consumer rights directive; if he is satisfied that the existing rights of consumers here, such as the right to reject will be retained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2533/11]

There have been significant developments in relation to the proposed Directive since my last reply to the House on this question on 2 December 2010. In that reply, I stated that intensive discussions were proceeding under the Belgian Presidency in advance of the Competitiveness Council on 10 December with a view to achieving a final resolution of the outstanding issues. In the light of those discussions, the Belgian Presidency proposed the deletion of Chapters IV (consumer sales and guarantees) and V (unfair contract terms) of the proposal on the grounds that it was impossible to find a qualified majority among the Member States for the full harmonisation of these Chapters. In the Presidency's view, there was limited added value for either businesses or consumers in these Chapters without full harmonisation, while their transposition would involve a legislative burden for national authorities.

The Presidency approach secured agreement at COREPER on 8 December on a qualified majority vote basis. It was agreed at Competitiveness Council on 10 December that the text of the proposed Directive revised in accordance with the agreed approach would be submitted for formal adoption to the Environment Council on 20 December. In the event, it is now to be submitted to the Agriculture Council on 24 January. The proposal is to be considered next by the European Parliament. The Committee on Legal Affairs [JURI] is scheduled to vote on it on 20 January and the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection [IMCO] to do so on 26 January. The proposal is expected to be discussed by the European Parliament in plenary session in March, and the Hungarian Presidency will seek to reach agreement with the Parliament at the first reading.

As agreement had previously been reached on the deletion of Chapter II on consumer information, the decision reached at Council has effectively reduced the substance of the Directive to Chapter III on information and withdrawal rights for distance and off-premises contracts. It is to be renamed accordingly ‘Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights in Distance and Off-Premises Contracts'. In view of the deletion of Chapters IV and V of the proposal, it is proposed that the existing minimum harmonisation Directives on consumer sales and guarantees and unfair contract terms respectively will remain in force.

As I indicated in my previous replies on this issue, the concerns about the impact of the proposed Directive on Irish consumer rights centred mainly on its provisions on consumer remedies for faulty goods and, in particular, on their implications for what is known as the right to reject. By this is meant the right to return faulty goods, obtain a refund of the price, and, in so doing, to terminate the contract. A fully harmonised provision along the lines originally proposed would have meant that the right to reject would be a remedy of second rather than first resort for faulty goods. If the Presidency approach is approved by the European Parliament, the proposed deletion of Chapter IV will result in the retention of the existing minimum harmonisation regime. As a result, the concerns expressed about the impact of the proposed Directive on the right to reject and on related matters such as the reduction in the liability period for faulty goods would no longer apply.

In this event, the provisions of the proposed Directive on distance and off-premises contracts will apply on a full harmonisation basis. The impact of the full harmonisation status of these provisions on Irish consumer legislation is limited, however, by the fact that the domestic Regulations which give effect to the existing minimum harmonisation Directives on distance and off-premises contracts did not make use of their minimum harmonisation basis to add additional protective measures. The proposed Directive also provides for the exclusion of a number of sectors from its scope (property; the construction and substantial conversion of new buildings; financial services; passenger transport services; social services; healthcare services; and gambling), and as a result Member States will retain legislative autonomy in respect of the regulation of distance and off-premises contracts in these sectors.

The minimum harmonisation basis of the consumer information rules under the Services and E-Commerce Directives will also be unaffected by the proposed Directive, and Member States will still be permitted to impose additional pre-contractual information requirements in the framework of both Directives even where these apply to distance and off-premises contracts.

Economic Competitiveness

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

87 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he has made decisions to implement the 21 priority recommendations identified by him from the outstanding recommendations of the Competition Authority. [2592/11]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

117 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the progress made regarding the commitment given in the renewed programme for Government to act on recommendations contained in reports of the Competition Authority within nine months of their publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2531/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 117 together.

In keeping with the commitment contained in theRenewed Programme for Government, the Government, in March 2010, reviewed the progress achieved by a number of Government Departments in relation to a list of 21 Competition Authority recommendations which had been prioritised based on their impact on competitiveness. A Government Statement on the progress made issued in April 2010. The Government also decided that it would review, twice-yearly, progress on the implementation of Competition Authority recommendations and, in line with this decision, I will be updating the Government, in this regard, in the coming weeks. It is important to note that the delivery of the Government commitment in relation to Competition Authority recommendations ultimately rests with the Minister whose remit includes the sectors addressed by the recommendations.

Economic Strategy

Liz McManus

Question:

88 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the role he will play in the implementation of the recently published plan, Trading and Investment in a Smart Economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2528/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent to which he, his Department or groups or bodies under the aegis of his Department have become involved in the establishment of new markets for Irish products in the European and global economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2899/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 192 together.

In September last year the Government launched its strategy and action plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015 entitledTrading and Investing in a Smart Economy. The Strategy takes a two-pronged approach focusing on particular markets and sectors. Building on our key strengths and track record, the sectors to be targeted include Services, Tourism, Food, Education, Life Sciences, Software, Next Generation Network-enabled sectors, Green technology, Construction and the built environment, Creativity and Design, and Technologies for an ageing population. In terms of markets, it identifies potential to further grow our existing key markets — UK, US and the eurozone — and to increase or gain a foothold in high-growth and high-potential markets, such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries), the Gulf States, Middle East and Japan. In addition, the strategy includes an Action Plan to guide the implementation of the priorities and targets identified.

The new Strategy specifies that I, as Minister for Trade and Commerce, will chair the new Foreign Trade Council, set up to drive its implementation. The new Council brings together all of the key Departments and State agencies involved in the promotion and development of trade, tourism and investment. The role of the Council is to pursue implementation of the strategy through a suite of actions in our key priority markets, both existing and high-potential, as set out in the strategy and action plan. It will also strengthen cooperation and coordination across all the key State agencies.

In addition to the CEOs of bodies under the aegis of this Department, namely Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Forfas and Science Foundation Ireland, the Council's membership also comprises the CEOs of Bord Bia, Tourism Ireland and Culture Ireland, as well as senior level representatives of the relevant Departments, i.e. Departments of An Taoiseach, Tourism, Culture and Sport, Foreign Affairs, Education and Skills, Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and, of course, my own Department.

Earlier today I chaired the second meeting of the Council, where we considered the new Market Development Plans prepared by the local Trade, Tourism and Investment Teams, which have been set up in each of Ireland's overseas priority markets. These plans are crucial instruments to pursue the key objective of the Strategy. In addition, the Council considered how to strengthen Ireland's profile abroad, including through St. Patrick's Day events, Ministerial-led Trade Missions and the more effective use of Joint Economic Commissions. All relevant issues to ensure implementation of the Strategy will be kept under review and monitored by the Council.

Enterprise Support Services

David Stanton

Question:

89 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the efforts he and bodies under the aegis of his Department, such as Enterprise Ireland and the South Cork County Enterprise Board, are making to support enterprise development and innovation, maximise entrepreneurial development and promote enterprise culture in Cobh, County Cork; the amount of grant support made available to local businesses and entrepreneurs in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in the Cobh area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2635/11]

David Stanton

Question:

101 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the efforts he and bodies under the aegis of his Department, such as Enterprise Ireland and the South Cork County Enterprise Board, are making to support enterprise development and innovation, maximise entrepreneurial development and promote enterprise culture in Youghal, County Cork; the amount of grant support made available to local business and entrepreneurs in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in the Youghal area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2634/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 101 together.

The critical role of entrepreneurship and enterprise development is fully recognised by Government. The complementary remit and activities of Enterprise Ireland and the County Enterprise Boards ensure that as broad a suite as possible of State supports are available for entrepreneurial and enterprise development. Enterprise Ireland actively engages with other agencies in the promotion and support of initiatives which help maximise entrepreneurial development and promote an enterprise culture in Cork County. The agency's funding approvals to its client companies in Cork County totalled over €13.1 million in 2008, over €14.2 million in 2009, over €15.4 million in 2010 and €9,031 to date in 2011.

In Youghal, Enterprise Ireland is represented on the Socio Economic Development Group and a sub-committee of that group, the Youghal Employment Creation sub-group. Enterprise Ireland works closely with Community groups in the towns of East Cork including Youghal and Cobh to foster further embryonic enterprise and to encourage young graduates to set up businesses in their own localities.

In June 2006, Youghal was successful in their application for funding under the Enterprise Ireland Community Enterprise Centre Scheme and received approval of €150,000 towards the development of a new Community Enterprise Centre. Enterprise Ireland has also supported the funding of a Manager for the centre over a two-year period. Development of the centre, known as Enterprise Youghal, was completed in 2008. Enterprise Youghal actively continues to market the Centre, through the support of its centre manager.

Under the Community Enterprise Centre Scheme (2007 — 2009), Cobh received approval for the establishment of a Community Enterprise Centre. Enterprise Ireland is currently engaged with the group in Cobh who were responsible for securing the approval and future development of a Community Enterprise Centre in Cobh. A site has been identified, plans have been drawn up, costings have been done and a planning application is imminent.

The role of the County Enterprise Board in South Cork is to provide support for small businesses with 10 employees or fewer in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level throughout the area, which is inclusive of Youghal and Cobh. South Cork County Enterprise Board grant assistance to eligible micro-enterprises was paid to the value of €430,001 in 2008 and €309,458 in 2009 to 38 projects, of which €77,500 was paid in 2008 and €50,000 was paid in 2009 to a total number of 7 projects in Youghal. As statistical information is collected on an annual basis, details in respect of figures for 2010 will become available during the first quarter of 2011.

South Cork County Enterprise Board assistance in the Youghal area has included support of an enterprise centre, direct grant support to eligible micro-enterprises, the promotion of enterprise related activities and of an enterprise culture in Youghal through networking and business development activities to attract new entrepreneurs from the area. Recent Board activities have included day-long clinics in Youghal for anybody wishing to drop-in to discuss their business ideas.

South Cork County Enterprise Board continues to support the micro-enterprise business sector in Cobh through the provision of grant assistance and soft supports in the form of training and mentoring programmes which can be tailored to the needs of individual entrepreneurs. In 2008, South Cork County Enterprise Board provided grant assistance of €75,000 to one client project situated in the Cobh area. The Board are currently pursuing an enterprise centre concept with the assistance of Cork County Council and the South and East Cork Area Development Partnership Limited. The Board also provides day-long clinics which facilitates local businesses and potential entrepreneurs to drop by and discuss their business needs and ideas.

Business Regulation

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

90 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the steps being taken to counter the reported practice of non-qualified persons posing as auditors and signing off on company accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2519/11]

Arising from a process of random sampling of audit reports filed in 2010, the Companies Registration Office (CRO) identified a number of audit reports which appeared to have been signed by persons who were not at the time notified to the CRO by a recognised body of accountants as holding an audit practising certificate from such a body. Neither were the persons signing the reports among those individuals authorised directly by the Minister to act as auditor. The CRO has also identified other examples of non-compliance including, for example, cases where accountants or others have signed off on audits using the names of legitimate auditors.

Where the CRO identifies a set of accounts in respect of a company which include an audit report signed by an auditor or audit firm that does not appear on the register of statutory auditors, it returns the Annual Return to its presenter, highlighting the deficiency and the annual return is deemed not to have been delivered unless a rectified and correct return is filed with the CRO within the subsequent fourteen days. In cases where the CRO is notified by a statutory auditor that his or her name has been used on an audit report which was not prepared by that auditor, the CRO notes the report and awaits the outcome of any relevant ODCE investigation or prosecution to decide the status of the Annual Return filed in respect of the company in question.

Where relevant, the CRO has passed details of suspected cases for investigation to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), which is the designated summary prosecutor under the Companies Acts. The ODCE currently has approximately 20 case files open in this area (originating from a variety of sources, including the CRO), a number of which are at an advanced stage of investigation. It expects that criminal proceedings will be initiated in a number of cases during 2011.

Since 2003, the ODCE has successfully prosecuted 14 unqualified individuals on 83 charges for purportedly ‘auditing' company financial statements in breach of Section 187 of the Companies Act 1990. These ODCE investigations and prosecutions have received the support of the CRO which provides, for example, certified evidence for the Courts including the offending ‘audit' opinion on the financial statements.

With a view to finding a method of identifying Annual Returns which include an audit report which has not been signed by an auditor on the public register of statutory auditors at the point of entry, the CRO has engaged in a series of meetings with the Recognised Accountancy Bodies to examine possible electronic solutions to this matter. It is intended that a final decision on a solution will be reached as quickly as possible and subsequently implemented in the CRO.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

91 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the status of the review being undertaken by him on co-operatives and the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893-2005; if he will implement the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation Resolution 193 on the promotion of co-operatives; the action he will take to promote the co-operative sector and encourage the establishment of co-operatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2645/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

114 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the anomaly in which a lack of legislation means that co-operatives registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies are required to submit audited accounts annually regardless of co-operative size, which is in stark contrast to some small companies who can claim audit exemption if they fulfil certain requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2646/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 114 together.

In April 2009 my Department initiated a public consultation on the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts. Arising from this consultation my Department has prepared a general scheme of a Bill which will be submitted to Government shortly for approval. This Bill is aimed at addressing a number of practical difficulties currently being experienced by co-operative societies in relation to the present legislation.

It is not proposed to include, at this stage, a provision for audit exemption for societies. The issue of audit exemption was raised during the public consultation process but the general view which emerged from that process was that it would be better to deal with the complex and technical area of auditing in a more comprehensive modernising measure in which the whole area of financial reporting and governance could be addressed. The concept of audit exemption, which is a feature of the Companies Acts, has never been part of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts.

The ILO recommendation 2002 (R193) will be considered in the context of a wider review of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts. I am confident that the proposed Bill and the wider review of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts will enhance the capacity of the cooperative sector and will contribute to its economic and social wellbeing into the future.

Departmental Reports

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

92 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he is satisfied with the progress in implementing the recommendations of the innovation task force. [2575/11]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

110 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding the implementation of the report of the task force on innovation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45952/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 110 together.

I have to date chaired four meetings of the High Level Implementation Committee which was established to oversee implementation of the recommendations in the Report of the Innovation Task Force (ITF). The Report provides a road map for positioning Ireland as an international innovation development hub and I am very pleased with the progress we are making in realising this objective. At the inaugural meeting of the Implementation Committee on 1 June, we identified the issues where we could move immediately to implementation; the need, in the first instance, to constitute and deploy expert working groups as specified by the Task Force; and the requirement for close engagement with agencies and other Government Departments to progress implementation.

Following this first meeting, Minister O'Keeffe appointed an Intellectual Property Implementation Group charged with developing and realizing the intellectual property related (IP) recommendations of the ITF Report and of a detailed IP review conducted by Forfás for my Department. The development of an IP Strategy will help Ireland maximise the return on public investment and support the commercialisation of Irish research and development. I expect to receive the Group's findings later this year.

At our second meeting on 20 July, Minister O'Keeffe briefed Committee members on the significant progress that had been made in implementing two key recommendations in the ITF report, namely:

The €500 million Innovation Fund-Ireland, which had been announced by the Taoiseach on 12 July, which is targeting the development of a vibrant venture capital community in Ireland through attracting top international venture capitalists; and.

Together with the Taoiseach, Minister O'Keeffe had launched Cycle 5 of PRTLI on 16 July, a €296m investment supporting third level research and leveraging €63m private investment.

Secretaries General of Government Departments and Chief Executives of agencies provided detailed updates on the implementation of recommendations for which their organisations has lead responsibility. In the light of these detailed reports and the ensuing discussion, the Committee agreed priority areas on which future meetings would focus. The private sector members also agreed to engage with an area where their expertise would be most valuable and to work closely with the secretariat and the Departments/agencies concerned to advance those goals.

Accordingly, the Committee's third and fourth meetings, which I chaired on 19 October and 15 December respectively, focused in depth on a number of the agreed priority recommendations. The outcome is that we have implemented, or are in the process of progressing to implementation stage, a number of the priority recommendations as follows:

Recommendations relating to the availability of venture funds and venture capital are being implemented and the development agencies have developed schemes to provide enhanced start up and seed funding to innovative companies in accordance with the ITF's recommendations;

The ITF recommendation to introduce incentives to encourage greater take up of higher level maths has been implemented by the introduction of a scheme of bonus points for students who sit higher level maths. The scheme is to be introduced for a four year pilot period commencing Leaving Certificate 2012 and will be reviewed in 2014. This initiative complements the recommendation to roll out Project Maths — an initiative designed to place greater emphasis on the understanding of mathematical concepts and the application of mathematical knowledge and skill — which is also being implemented;

Proposals are being developed on the potential for an International Innovation Services Centre in Dublin for global IP management, licensing and IP trading services, and for ancillary activities. I anticipate that the Committee will be able to review this proposal in the near future;

The Committee had a very informative exchange of views on how it could identify potential flagship projects which can align procurement with strengths in specific products, services and R&D capacity. We agreed that a proposal for a pilot flagship project, drawing on the work that is currently underway as part of the wider "silver technology" initiative (the application of new technologies to healthcare for the elderly), would be developed and submitted for further consideration;

The Committee noted two initiatives taken to date to progress the concept of convergence (this entails the development of new products and services across the boundaries of formerly discrete technologies and sectors). These include (i) the development of a device prototype and commercialisation centre aimed at providing services on a commercial basis to assess, develop and commercialise medical devices; and (ii) the development of a national healthcare innovation hub. In noting the significant potential for future growth in the area of convergence, the Committee endorsed the further progression of the two initiatives in consultation with the HSE and agreed that the Committee should revisit the governance of convergent technology policy and initiatives later this year;

Members of the Committee had a very informative exchange of views with the Department of Finance on the tax recommendations from among those in the ITF Report which they i.e. the members of the Committee, regard as priorities in the context of Budget 2011; and,

At our December meeting, Minister O'Keeffe outlined how the increased funding secured for the R&D activities of Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in the context of Budget 2011 would enable us to retain the science base we have built over the past decade, attract further R&D FDI, strengthen collaborations between researchers and enterprise, provide additional company R&D grants, and ensure the best use is made of research with commercial and market potential.

The Committee's next meeting is scheduled for 24 February.

Employment Rights

Emmet Stagg

Question:

93 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the steps he will take to prevent the exploitation of domestic workers, particularly migrant workers in such positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2636/11]

Ireland's body of employment rights legislation protects all workers employed on an employer-employee basis in Ireland. The Protection of Employee's (Part-Time) Work Act, 2001 provides that all employee protection legislation applies to a person, irrespective of his or her nationality or place of residence, who has entered into a contract of employment that provides for his or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment.

NERA collects information from a number of sources in order to identify the location of domestic workers. NERA also investigates complaints received. NERA provides information through a variety of channels including –

Information booklets and leaflets in a number of languages · NERA's website — www.employmentrights.ie — had over 286,000 visits in last 12 months with 1.3m pages accessed.

A 24-hour telephone service, with options to hear recorded information at a convenient time.

Through NERA inspections.

NERA's participation in events with trade unions ,employer and educational bodies and many others including those in the public sector.

NERA's holding of its own information clinics in 2011

A member of NERA management acting as liaison officer with the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland.

9 NERA inspectors having specific language skills in Polish, Slovakian, Lithuanian and Russian.

NERA drawing on interpretative resources as required.

There is a Code of Practice for Protecting Persons Employed in Other People's Homes as set out in Section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990. The code seeks to

Set out certain employment rights and protections for persons employed in other people's homes; and

Encourage good practice and compliance with the law concerning the employment of persons in other people's homes; and

Increase awareness of the application of relevant legislation and codes of practice with regard to the sector to which this code applies.

NERA Inspectors may only enter a private home with the consent of the occupier or by warrant of the District Court. It can, but has never found it necessary to, apply to the District Court for a warrant (not a search warrant) to enter a private home to examine records. Such warrants may only be issued if a judge of the District Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that information required by an Inspector is held on any premises or any part of premises. In 2011, NERA will undertake a programme to assess the level of compliance in the domestic worker sector. Part of this programme will be the provision of information to both employers and employees.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

94 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans to publish legislation to amend the Competition Acts to uphold the right of certain freelance workers such as actors and musicians to collective bargaining, which was promised as part of the review of the Towards 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2526/11]

"Towards 2016” contains a Government commitment to introduce amending legislation to exclude voice-over actors, freelance journalists and session musicians when engaging in collective bargaining, from the provisions of Section 4 of the Competition Act 2002. The commitment takes into account, inter alia, that there would be negligible negative impacts on the economy or on the level of competition, and would have regard to the specific attributes and nature of the work involved, and be subject to consistency with EU competition rules.

I intend, subject to consistency with EU competition law and the commitment set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the EU/IMF Programme for Financial Support for Ireland, to give effect to this commitment in the legislation currently being prepared to merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. This legislation will also amend, reform and update certain provisions of existing competition and consumer law. I hope to publish the Bill during the course of 2011.

Job Creation

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

95 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans for State agencies to create 30,000 jobs this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2545/11]

The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place to support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate job creation. The State Development agencies under the aegis of my Department — Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, are continuing to drive and promote enterprise development, and consequently employment creation in our economy.

Budget 2011 saw €508 million in capital spending alone dedicated to driving Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth through increased exports, more foreign direct investments and the smart economy by significantly investing in research and development. This multi-billion capital investment in growth and jobs is routed through my Department and its agencies, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards. This investment and other measures outlined in the National Recovery Plan will support the achievement of the targets set out in the Government's Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy strategy, including the target to create 300,000 new direct and indirect jobs in the enterprise and tourism sectors by 2015. It will deliver nearly 30,000 new jobs in 2011, including both direct and indirect jobs, just from the IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland client base alone.

Enterprise Ireland will support the achievement of these job creation targets through a number of key interventions such as:

support for start-ups, R&D and Innovation, and securing exports:

Supporting the establishment and growth of High Potential Start-Ups.

supporting companies to target new opportunities in overseas markets.

continuing to be focused on supporting company investments

continuing to invest in R&D both in terms of in-company investments, and by supporting the commercialisation of Ireland's research.

A vibrant and growing Foreign Direct Investment sector remains central to an economic recovery based on export led growth and the development of the Smart Economy. Last year, IDA launched its strategy "Horizon 2020”, which set out the Agency’s targets for the period 2010 to 2014. In 2010, IDA secured 126 investments and IDA client companies created almost 11,000 new jobs.

To support these targets, the IDA has established a new High Growth Markets Team to achieve 20% of Greenfield investments into Ireland by 2014 originating from these markets, with a further team targeting new High Growth companies. Additionally, IDA has developed a suite of support mechanisms to assist companies, which will form the basis of the agency's ongoing interaction with its client companies at both local and corporate level.

Enterprise Support Services

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

96 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he has any new proposals to encourage the start up of small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2543/11]

Within my area of responsibility my priority is to ensure that the business environment in Ireland continues to be supportive of enterprise and export growth, and encourages growth in all areas of the economy including entrepreneurs in both the start-up and development phases. The State directly assists both start-ups and developing small and medium enterprises via the supports offered by the enterprise Agencies.

The County and City Enterprise Boards are the primary initial contact point for business start-ups in Ireland. The CEBs can assist micro-enterprises i.e. businesses with 10 employees or fewer and are to the forefront in supporting viable business start-ups and in assisting the development of growth-orientated micro-enterprises which can generate job creation at a local level and which, over time, can develop into strong export entities and transfer to the Enterprise Ireland portfolio.

The priorities for the CEBs are to assist people wishing to start their own business and also to assist existing owner/managers in enhancing the survival and sustainability of their businesses in these difficult economic times. The forms of financial assistance, which are available, subject to certain eligibility criteria, include Priming Grants, Business Expansion &Development Grants and Feasibility Study Grants. The provision of non-financial assistance can take the form of a wide range of Programmes covering Business Management, Mentoring, E-commerce, Enterprise Education and Women in Business networks. Training courses include such topics as start-your-own-business, taxation for beginners, internet marketing, ideas generation and negotiation skills. These "soft supports" contribute enormously to people wishing to start their own business with an appropriate set of business skills and also contribute positively to the wider policy objective of building an enterprise culture, which over time, results in job creation and sustainable businesses.

In addition to funding the activities of the County Enterprise Boards my Department also funds Enterprise Ireland. Enterprise Ireland's remit covers the stimulation and development of start-ups that have the potential to employ more than 10 people and to achieve €1 million in exports. Such start-ups are typically highly innovative and are in a position to sell globally from their earliest stage.

Under the auspices of Enterprise Ireland the Government has invested significantly in the broader environment for business start-ups including investment in incubators, seed and venture funds, angel networks and mentors in addition to specific funding for High Potential Start Ups through the Innovative HPSU funding offer. In addition to supporting HPSUs Enterprise Ireland provides support to Community Enterprise Centres (CECs). The CECs provide a range of facilities that enable entrepreneurs to establish new businesses, provide employment and grow their businesses in their own locality.

The complementary remit and activities of both Enterprise Ireland and the CEBs ensure that as broad a suite as possible of State supports are available to start-ups in Ireland. I would encourage anyone interested in starting their own business to make contact with their local CEB in the first instance for appropriate advice and assistance and onward referral to Enterprise Ireland where relevant. My belief is that the supports offered by the CEBs and Enterprise Ireland should be as seamless as possible and should facilitate further the transition from an innovative micro start-up to a high-potential exporting SME. I am examining ways in which this might best be achieved and will shortly be bringing a Memorandum to the Government in this regard.

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 71.

Company Law

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

98 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the current status of the work of the Company Law Review Group; the time frame for the publication of legislation following the reports of the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2534/11]

The Company Law Review Group (CLRG) is currently working on its 2010-2012 Work Programme which I assigned to it in March 2010. While there is no obligation on my part to legislate in respect of any recommendation from the CLRG, the main focus of the Group's work to date has been in relation to the General Scheme of the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill which was published in July 2007. The proposed Bill will consolidate all the existing Irish Companies Acts, dating from 1963 to 2009, as well as other Regulations and common law provisions relating to the incorporation and operation of companies into a single Act, comprising more than 1,300 sections. Given its size and complexity it is envisaged that the Bill will be published in 2012.

Industrial Development

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

99 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the strategy being undertaken by him in conjunction with the Industrial Development Agency to secure 50% of investment outside Dublin and Cork in view of the fact that in 2010 that target fell short with 37% of all investments outside Dublin and Cork; the strategy that is being pursued by him to retain employment in IDA supported companies given that while 11,000 jobs were created in IDA supported companies in 2010, 9,500 were lost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2642/11]

One of the high level goals in the IDA's strategy document "Horizon 2020 “ is a commitment that, by 2014, 50% of all FDI investments will be located outside of Dublin and Cork. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Ireland increased significantly in 2010, despite global economic uncertainty. IDA has continued to increase the number of companies investing in Ireland for the first time while encouraging existing operations to expand and diversify their operations here.

Despite the turbulent global economy in which, according to the OECD, foreign direct investment declined by 8% and with increased competition for FDI, IDA secured 126 investments in 2010 with IDA client companies creating almost 11,000 new jobs during the year. During 2010, it was encouraging to see that, 45% of the jobs approved were locating outside of Dublin and Cork in key regional locations, such as Dundalk, Letterkenny, Tullamore, Ballina, Tralee, Waterford.

The global outlook for FDI in 2011 remains challenging but a continuing focus on improving competitiveness will place Ireland in a favourable position to win further significant FDI and contribute strongly to Ireland's export led economic recovery. Significant FDI successes in 2010 have built a strong momentum for investment which will be carried through in 2011. Many investments secured last year will be recruiting this year, feeding further employment-growth. IDA's focus will continue to be on high end manufacturing, global services and RD&I across a wide range of sectors. In particular ICT, Digital Media, International Financial Services, Internationally Traded Services, Life sciences and Cleantech are poised for further growth. The level of confidence demonstrated by overseas investors in Ireland ensures we will remain one of the leading locations in the world for foreign direct investment.

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 78.
Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 89.

Proposed Legislation

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

102 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation when he expects to publish the legislation promised (details supplied) to clamp down on crony capitalism, to restrict cross-directorships and to prevent one person fulfilling the dual role of chairman and chief executive of any company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2536/11]

As regards credit institutions and insurance companies, which come within the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Finance, the Central Bank issued last November the corporate governance code for credit institutions and insurance firms which sets out minimum statutory requirements on how banks and insurance companies should organise the governance of their institutions. The Code applies to existing directors and boards with effect from 1st January 2011 but there is provision for transitional arrangements for those institutions needing more time to implement changes to systems and structures to become compliant.

The Code adopts a two-tier approach by imposing minimum core standards upon the boards of directors of banks and insurers in general with additional requirements defined for firms that the Central Bank designates as major institutions. Included among the requirements of the Code are limits on the number of directorships, which directors may hold in financial and non-financial companies to ensure they can comply with the expected demands of board membership of a credit institution or insurance company. The Code also provides for a clear separation of the roles of Chairman and CEO.

There is also a requirement for an annual confirmation of compliance to be submitted to the Central Bank. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Code may be subject to supervisory action and disciplinary procedures by the Central Bank, including sanctions under powers available to the Bank. In addition, cross directorships and separation of the roles of Chair and Chief Executive are among issues also being considered by the European Commission as part of a possible corporate governance initiative at EU level on financial institutions generally.

In relation to Irish-listed companies (those trading on the main market of the Irish Stock Exchange), the corporate governance code that applies on a "comply or explain" basis was revised last September following the financial crisis. Among the changes introduced is a provision recommending that all directors of listed companies should be subject to annual election by shareholders. The revised Code continues to provide that the same individual should not exercise the roles of Chairman and CEO.

In the area of company law, the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill currently being drafted will implement the recommendations of the Company Law Review Group in that the fiduciary duties owed by directors to the company will be set out in the new companies code. Currently, company law does not prohibit cross-directorships. The general position is that a person may not be a director of more than 25 companies subject to certain specific exceptions. Neither do the Companies Acts prevent a person fulfilling the dual role of chair and chief executive of a company. This would in my opinion be unworkable for smaller companies. The Government is committed to ensuring that our corporate governance regime for the corporate sector generally, accords with best international practice.

Retail Sector

Róisín Shortall

Question:

103 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will consider amending the law to require major retail companies operating here to publish company accounts to establish the level of profits they are making, particularly in view of reports that one major retailer (details supplied) makes greater profits here than in any other part of its global empire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2540/11]

Companies in Ireland are free to establish and organise themselves in the most suitable form to promote and run their businesses, provided that they comply fully with relevant national and EU legislation. The requirements regarding the preparation and publication of the accounts of limited companies and groups are determined by the First, Fourth and Seventh EU Company Law Directives and by the EU IFRS Regulations. These requirements are largely reflected in the Companies Act, 1963, the Companies (Amendment) Act 1986 and the European Communities (Companies: Group Accounts) Regulations 1992, as amended.

The EU Eleventh Company Law Directive, implemented as the European Communities (Branch Disclosures) Regulations, 1993, addresses the requirements applicable to branches of EEA companies. Irish subsidiaries of EEA companies can submit the audited group accounts of their parent to the Registrar of Companies instead of their own individual accounts provided certain conditions are met. EEA companies that have an Irish branch are required to submit only the company accounts to the Registrar of Companies. Irish companies that are subsidiaries of EEA companies and which are themselves parent companies need not produce consolidated accounts provided certain conditions are met. There are similar provisions for subsidiaries of non-EEA companies. In such cases the consolidated accounts of the EEA or non-EEA group must be submitted to the Registrar of Companies.

I consider that a sector-specific disclosure regime such as that suggested in the question would be open to accusations of discrimination and, were it to be required generally in the economy, it could have implications in terms of business costs and attracting foreign direct investment. I have no plans to amend the law in relation to this issue.

Departmental Agencies

Joan Burton

Question:

104 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the date on which he intends to extend the voluntary 15-day rule relating to prompt payments to the Health Service Executive, local authorities and State agencies as foreseen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1381/11]

As one of the commitments in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, (Section 2.2.5, Page 34 and Section 2.5.2, Page 42) published on 24 November 2010, the Government has decided to extend the 15 day prompt payment rule beyond Government Departments to the wider public sector, in order to further assist the cash-flow of SMEs.

In addition, under Section 2 (IV), page 13 of the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland — Programme Documents — published on the Department of Finance website on 1 December 2010, and approved by the Dáil in a Motion passed on 15 December 2010, the Government has also committed to extend the voluntary 15 day rule relating to prompt payments to the Health Service Executive, Local Authorities and State Agencies. This specific action is to be completed, as part of the Second Review of Actions by the Government, by the end of Quarter 2 of 2011 (i.e. by 30 June 2011). I am in the process of writing to Government Departments regarding the rolling out of this initiative to all the public sector bodies under their aegis, in order comply with the above 30 June 2011, deadline.

Enterprise Support Services

Brian O'Shea

Question:

105 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the progress made regarding the commitment given in the renewed programme for Government to undertake an independent review of the effectiveness of State agency support for enterprise, including interaction between the Industrial Development Agency, Enterprise Ireland and county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2530/11]

Forfás, working with officials from my Department, is at present developing an evaluation framework which will facilitate a review of the effectiveness of State agency support for enterprise. The framework is designed to robustly measure the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of programme objectives and delivery. I expect that the development of the evaluation framework will be completed by the end of March. This will be followed by the systematic evaluation of programmes delivered by the enterprise development agencies and will identify synergies and/or overlaps between the supports they provide.

The enterprise development agencies have, as a matter of course, collaborated extensively for many years on an ongoing basis through a range of formal and informal mechanisms. However, in 2009, my Department established a High Level Group comprising representatives of each agency to identify areas for further collaboration. In addition to involving my own Department's main agencies, the High Level Group also includes a representative from Udarás na Gaeltachta. The Group has made progress in a number of areas, for example in ensuring that access to supports is defined by business need rather than agency "ownership". It has also enhanced the sharing of information, and has identified initiatives to maximise potential synergies between foreign and indigenous firms.

The Group will continue to identify areas where agency collaboration can be strengthened and where the effectiveness of support to enterprises can be improved. The Group will take account of the outcome of the programme evaluations in due course.

Credit Availability

Brian O'Shea

Question:

106 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the latest position regarding his discussions with the main banks to ensure that credit is made available to all businesses and particularly to small and medium-sized enterprises; when he last met the banks to discuss these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2529/11]

I have met with Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland throughout 2010 to discuss the availability of bank credit for businesses, especially SMEs. I last met with AIB on 9 November 2010. My officials met with Bank of Ireland on 17 December 2010. At these meetings, the banks were reminded of the purpose of the recapitalisation package and of the huge investment of taxpayers' money into the banks aimed at getting our economy moving again.

The message from the two main banks was that they were open for business and available to provide credit to viable businesses. They assured me that they were fully committed to supporting businesses and would meet the requirements laid down for them in the Recapitalisation package of 30 March 2010.

I have ongoing contact with the main banks in relation to their lending to businesses and will, together with my colleague the Minister for Finance, and John Trethowan of the Credit Review Office, continue to ensure that they meet their lending commitments under the 2010 Recapitalisation package in terms of providing sufficient credit to the business sector. In this regard, John Trethowan recently indicated that the situation was much more positive for bank customers than it was six to nine months ago.

As part of his Second Quarterly Report on SME Lending published on 18 November 2010, John Trethowan indicated that each of the banks have shown a positive attitude to the Credit Review Office appeals process, and the banks' Executives have been asked to ensure that this attitude is shared with their front-line staff.

National Minimum Wage

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

107 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he intends to proceed with the provision contained in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act that allows for a reduction in the national minimum wage; the date from which it is intended to apply the reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2522/11]

In accordance with Section 13 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010, the Order to give effect to the Government's decision to reduce the national minimum wage to €7.65 was signed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation on 18 January. The reduction will come into effect on 1 February 2011. The adjustment of the national minimum wage to a rate more suited to current economic circumstances and the specific needs of our labour market should contribute to improving Ireland's cost competitiveness, stimulate enterprise growth and boost job creation.

I should also point out that even after the reduction to €7.65 per hour, the new rate of Ireland's national minimum hourly wage will remain in the top tier of minimum wage rates set by European Union Member States and will be about 12% higher than the equivalent minimum hourly rate applicable in the United Kingdom.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 72.

Job Losses

Arthur Morgan

Question:

109 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the number of meetings that have taken place by the inter-agency team set up in the wake of the job losses at Quinn Insurance in 2010; the number of meetings of the team he has attended; the progress being made by the team in respect of supporting the workers in terms of workshops and other practical measures; if, and when, the inter-agency response team has met with the similar response team set up by the authorities in the Northern Ireland Assembly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2637/11]

Last year in response to the developments in Quinn Insurance and its impact on the employees' jobs, I established an inter-agency team comprising Enterprise Ireland, FÁS, IDA Ireland, the relevant County Enterprise Boards and the Department of Social Protection. The group meets regularly under the chairmanship of Dan Flinter and while I have not attended the meetings of the group, the appointment of Dan Flinter as chair is a signal of the importance which I attach to the work of this group. Mr. Flinter keeps my Department updated regularly on the work of the group.

The first meeting of the inter-agency team was held in Cavan on the 30th of April last year and to date 12 meetings of the Group have taken place and active ongoing dialogue with the Employee Representative Group has been a feature of the process. The 13th meeting of the Inter Agency Response Group will take place in Cavan on the 7th February 2011. The Chairs of the response groups, North and South, have met on 2 occasions.

The primary focus of the inter-agency team is to support the affected employees, to explore their options regarding employment, self employment through setting up a new business, skills development and to outline the supports available to them. Dedicated information centres staffed by the agencies were established on site in Cavan, Navan and Blanchardstown to support the affected workers. Briefings and information sessions for the employees concerned were delivered at all three sites by Enterprise Ireland, FÁS, the County Enterprise Boards, the Department of Social Protection and other agencies, education providers and financial institutions as required. I consider that the inter-agency team has been an effective solution to coordinate the activities of the relevant Government Departments, state development agencies and county enterprise boards, in order to support employment opportunities for the people concerned.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 92.

EU Directives

Róisín Shortall

Question:

111 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation in respect of EU directives for which he has responsibility, the number remaining to be implemented; the directives that are now overdue; the number of reasoned opinions received from the EU Commission since 2002 regarding delays or non-implementation of such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2539/11]

There are nine EU Directives due to be transposed by my Department. One of these Directives is currently overdue. Directive 2009/125/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products was due to be transposed on 20 November 2010. However, work on the implementation of this Directive is at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that the Directive will be implemented shortly. My Department has received a total of 28 Reasoned Opinions from the EU Commission since 2002 of which all, apart from two Reasoned Opinions, have been closed.

A Reasoned Opinion was received on 24 June 2010 regarding the non-transposition of the Services Directive 2006/123/EC. This Directive was fully transposed on 23 November 2010. A Reasoned Opinion was issued on 5th May 2010 by the EU Commission regarding the non-transposition of Directive 2008/68/EC on the inland transport of dangerous goods. This Directive was fully transposed on 30th December 2010. The two Reasoned Opinions associated with the non-transposition of these Directives are expected to be closed shortly. Full details of the state of play of all current Directives due for transposition are maintained on my Department's website, www.deti.ie. The transposition of EU Directives is an ongoing priority for my Department and is reported to the Management Board on a regular basis.

Departmental Expenditure

Joe Costello

Question:

112 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans to achieve the full year administrative efficiencies of €31 million, referred to in the budget documentation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2520/11]

The National Recovery Plan sets out the strategy to underpin Ireland's economic recovery by restoring stability to the public finances, improving Ireland's cost competitiveness, stimulating enterprise growth and job creation. As part of the Plan, the Government has prioritised capital investment for the Enterprise Agencies over the next four years with the provision of €2.2 billion.

In order to restore stability to the public finances, savings have to be made across the public sector. My Department will contribute €47 million in Current savings over the lifetime of the Plan, of which €14 million in savings have already been achieved in the Budget allocation for 2011. Pay savings will be delivered through a reduction in staff numbers across the Department, its Offices and Agencies. Non-Pay savings will be achieved by re-prioritisation of programme funding and administrative efficiencies driven by, for example, the increased use of collective procurement, enhanced leverage of technologies and shared services.

Construction Industry

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

113 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties faced by sub-contractors in the construction sector when main contractors go into receivership, both in regard to unpaid contracts and difficulties in retrieving equipment and tools from construction sites; his plans to provide protection for sub-contractors in this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2523/11]

As I outlined in my reply to Question No. 46 on Thursday 2 December 2010, my colleague, Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D, Minister for Finance is, on behalf of the Government, supporting Senator Feargal Quinn's Construction Contracts Bill 2010 (No. 21 of 2010) which is currently before the Seanad. The main objective of the Bill is to provide a payment and adjudication mechanism to resolve payment disputes between contractors and sub-contractors for work done under construction contracts.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 91.

National Minimum Wage

Martin Ferris

Question:

115 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the way he intends to enlarge the scope of the inability to pay clause; the limits he intends to set on the number of times this clause can be invoked; the way this will affect the responsibility of employers to pay minimum rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2644/11]

Section 41 of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 makes provision for an employer to apply to the Labour Court for a once-off time limited exemption from the requirement to pay the minimum rate. The EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, published on 1 December 2010, includes a commitment to enlarge the scope of the inability pay provision in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, permitting firms to invoke this clause more than once. The precise details of how this can best be addressed, including relevant legislative adjustments, will be the subject of consultation with the European Commission.

Enterprise Support Services

John Perry

Question:

116 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans to produce a policy paper dealing specifically with micro companies in view of their importance to the economy. [2651/11]

The National Recovery Plan provides a policy blueprint for Ireland's return to sustainable economic growth and builds on previous Government initiatives such asBuilding Ireland’s Smart Economy and the recent Strategy for Trade, Tourism and Investment. It identifies the areas of activity which will provide increased employment opportunities as Ireland’s economic recovery takes place. Included in the range of specific actions and supports designed to improve competitiveness across all sectors of the economy, including the SME sector are measures to cut costs to business, the removal of barriers to employment creation, and a range of sector-specific actions to increase exports and domestic demand.

Capital funding under the National Recovery Plan is being targeted to ensure that it is employment-focused, and in this regard, funding for enterprise-support programmes operated by my Department's agencies has been given a priority. Enterprise Ireland will continue to invest in high potential start-ups and help companies to increase their exports to new and existing markets. Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) will continue to work directly with SMEs and the micro-enterprise sector to improve their performance, productivity and competitiveness.

It is important that policy is determined in a measured and cohesive manner so as to address the challenges facing our economy as a whole. The importance of the micro-enterprise sector to our economy cannot be overstated, and within my area of responsibility, my priority, therefore, is to ensure that the business environment in Ireland continues to be supportive of enterprise and encourages growth in all areas of the economy including entrepreneurs in both the start-up and development phases.

Since their establishment the CEBs have had primary responsibility for the delivery of State support to the indigenous micro-enterprise sector i.e. businesses which employ 10 or less workers. The CEBs, through both financial and non-financial assistance, support the sector in the start-up and expansion phases and stimulate enterprise potential at local level. The current priorities for the CEBs are to assist owner/managers in enhancing the survival and sustainability of their businesses in these difficult economic times and to assist people wishing to start their own business including those made redundant.

A thriving micro-enterprise sector is vital to a strong economy and to the overall quality of life and standard of living in this country and the CEBs have played a crucial role in supporting growth and productivity in that sector and in supporting the spread of entrepreneurship across the Country. The Capital Allocation for the CEBs in 2011 is €15m. This allocation represents a strong State investment in the micro-enterprise sector notwithstanding the significant pressure on Public finances. Individual CEBs are prioritising and managing available funding in a targeted manner in order to maximise entrepreneurial development at local level. My Department, in association with the CEB Central Coordination Unit within Enterprise Ireland (CCU), and with the CEB network, will continue to monitor the level of funding and range of support services offered by the CEBs to the micro-enterprise sector.

As I have previously stated, I am of the view that State support for that sector should continue to be provided and such support should be delivered as close to the client as possible. To this end I am reviewing what institutional arrangements might best deliver the necessary supports to the micro-enterprise sector and I am evaluating the appropriateness of the current structures of the thirty-five CEBs as part of that process.

I am also keen to ensure that the synergies between the CEBs and Enterprise Ireland are maximised, and that engagement with the development agencies is as seamless as possible for all small businesses including the important micro sector. I will shortly be bringing a Memorandum to the Government in this regard.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 87.

Consultancy Contracts

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

118 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Taoiseach if he will provide the details on the number of consultancy contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) since 2006 by each Government and State agency giving the title of each assignment, the duration of the contract and the financial consideration for each assignment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2981/11]

In September 2010, following a public tender process, Indecon International Economic Consultants were awarded the contract to provide technical economic assistance to officials in Government Departments conducting Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) and other technical exercises relating to the Better Regulation agenda. The aim is to help Departments improve the quality of the quantitative assessment of legislative proposals.

In the OECD Report on Better Regulation in Ireland (November 2010), the OECD recognised the need to improve the quality of quantitative analysis conducted in this context and to make greater use of this support. An earlier independent Review of the Operation of RIA, which was published in 2008, also recommended maintaining this support for Departments. The contract with Indecon International Economic Consultants is for a period of 2 years. Departments must first seek the prior approval of the Department of the Taoiseach to avail of this support and the number of consultancy days is agreed based on a needs assessment. To date, €13,929.70 has been spent under this contract.

In January 2007, following a tender process, Indecon International Economic Consultants were commissioned to conduct a review of the Irish Annuities Market. The Review was undertaken under the auspices of the Partnership Pensions Review Group comprising of representatives of Government Departments, the Pensions Board, IBEC and ICTU, and established under the terms of Towards 2016. The report of this review was published in October 2007. The cost of this review was €133,100.

Schools Building Projects

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

119 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if the provision of the permanent extension to a school (details supplied) in County Dublin will proceed as a matter of priority, notwithstanding the fact that her Department recently purchased temporary accommodation without the agreement of the school authorities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2800/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has an application with the Department for an extension which has been assigned a band rating of 2.4. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of that project at this time.

The Department is currently carrying out an ongoing review of temporary accommodation in schools throughout the country. As part of this review, it was determined that better value for money could be achieved by purchasing the rented units at the school rather than continuing with their rental. I assure the Deputy that the purchase of the school's prefabs does not affect the progress of the school's major capital application which will continue to be considered for progression through the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Departmental Expenditure

Brian Hayes

Question:

120 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 107 of 4 November 2010, when a response will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2815/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the information required to respond to Parliamentary Question No. 107 of 4th November, 2010 has now been compiled and will issue very shortly.

School Staffing

Finian McGrath

Question:

121 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will support a matter (details supplied) regarding educational support. [2961/11]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

123 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will reconsider the decision to withdraw educational support for Traveller children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2974/11]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

125 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the educational basis for her decision to withdraw 600 resource teachers for Travellers in the recent budget; the amount expected to be saved by this decision; if she will specify the alleviation measures put in place by her in view of this decision; if she will consider reversing this cutback; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2992/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 123 and 125 together.

The position is that the Government has taken a decision to provide educational teaching supports to Traveller students on the same basis as other students in schools. This means that Traveller students who require additional tuition will receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools will be advised to select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.

The principle of "individual educational need" rather than "Traveller identity" is central to The Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy and the key criterion underlying the recommendations of the report for the provision of additional resources to all children, including Traveller children. Resource Teacher for Traveller posts will be withdrawn, effective from September 2011. It is intended that alleviation measures will be provided for schools with high concentrations of Traveller children and that schools will shortly be advised of the alleviation measures which will apply and of the qualifying criteria.

The measures will result in a saving of 600 posts at an approximate annual cost of over €35m. My Department will advise all schools of their staffing allocation in advance of the next school year.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

122 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will consider re-evaluating or withdrawing circular 70 which classifies low paid school caretakers and secretaries, who are currently not public servants, as public servants solely for the purposes of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009; the reason this measure was taken; if this measure sets a precedent that can be acted upon in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2963/11]

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 (the Act) determined the criteria for reducing the pay of public servants with effect from January 2010. However, when the Act was introduced, there was a question as to how a public servant should be determined for the purposes of this Act. Subsequently, following receipt of legal advice, it has now been determined that all staff employed by a recognised school or VEC come within the definition of "public servant" solely for the purposes of the Act.

The legislation has determined that all persons employed by a recognised school or VEC, regardless of the source of the money used to fund their salary, the lack of ability of any Minister or Department to determine on their appointment or set their pay rates, and irrespective of whether or not they are eligible for, or members of, a public service pension scheme, are "public servants" within the meaning of the Act. It is important to point out that the fact that affected staff employed by recognised schools and VECs come within the definition of "public servant" solely for the purposes of the Act does not alter their employment status in any other respect.

The legislation does not exempt any individual or groups save for the Judiciary and the President due to provisions in the Constitution. Section 6 does provide a limited power to the Minister for Finance to exempt or vary the reduction in pay rates provided for in the legislation where exceptional circumstances exist or because of an arbitration award. In view of the time lapse involved in reaching a determination on this issue, the Minister for Finance has allowed for a temporary exemption from the application of the Act for these categories of staff up until 31 December 2010.

Accordingly, my Department outlined that adjustments in salary should be applied with effect from 1 January 2011, to all relevant staff in the employment of recognised schools or VECs, who were not already affected by the pay reductions introduced under the Act. Some of the categories of staff affected by this Circular included school secretaries and caretakers.

With regard to the reasoning behind the introduction of this Circular, as I have already pointed out it was introduced to give effect to the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No 2) Act 2009. This legislation was introduced in the context of the priority to be given to the stabilisation of the public finances. The purpose of the legislation is to achieve a significant reduction in the public service pay bill. In this regard €22 million in savings will be secured in 2011 through an average 5% reduction in funding grants to schools and Vocational Educational Committees.

This reduction to capitation and ancillary grants for schools will reduce capitation rates, in most cases, to those that applied to schools between 2007 and 2008, with the exception of primary capitation, where the new rate will be between the 2008 and the current rate. The reduced rates to ancillary and support services grants will reflect the reduction in pay that will apply, with effect from January 2011, to personnel who are paid from these grants. In response to the final aspect of your query I have no plans to re-evaluate or withdraw Circular 0070/2010.

Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 121.

Teaching Qualifications

Pat Breen

Question:

124 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the options available for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; if they will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2975/11]

The arrangements regarding probation of teachers have recently been reviewed and are set out in Circular 58/2010 ‘Probationary Requirements for Registration Purposes for Primary Teachers' which is available on my Department's website.

Under the Teaching Council Act, 2001, the Council is required to establish procedures and criteria for probation of teachers including periods of probation. Under section 29(6), ‘the Council may register a person subject to conditions, including conditions as to probation and such conditions shall be complied with within such period as may be specified by the Council.' Since its establishment in March 2006, the Council has registered all newly qualified primary teachers subject to the condition of probation. The Council is of the view that completion of the probationary process is an important part of being fully registered with the Council. It cannot waive this condition until a suitable probationary or similar induction programme has been completed. However, both the Department of Education and Skills and the Teaching Council are aware that not all primary teachers will find an immediate teaching position in which to complete the probationary process. As a result, the range of situations in which a teacher may be probated has been widened by my Department, in conjunction with the Teaching Council, to include the FÁS Work Placement Programme and service abroad.

The Council is aware that many newly qualified primary teachers have commenced teaching positions in the UK and further afield in recent years without being registered as a teacher with the equivalent authority in the jurisdiction in question. The Council also understands that there is an Overseas Trained Teacher scheme which allows teachers to work in England and/or other countries for a number of years without being registered there. The Deputy may wish to note that the time spent teaching in a primary school in another jurisdiction may count towards the 170-day teaching service requirement for probation in Ireland and the applicant should contact the Teaching Council or Limerick Education Centre directly in this regard.

It is also possible for a teacher to complete an approved* induction programme in another jurisdiction that will meet the requirements of the condition with the Teaching Council in Ireland leading to full registration. In addition, in extenuating circumstances, a teacher may apply to the Council for an extension of the three year period.

*Approved by the designated/competent authority of that jurisdiction. (e.g.Teaching Council).

Question No. 125 answered with Question No. 121.

Departmental Staff

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

126 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which bonus payments have been paid to different grades in his Department and the amounts paid by way of bonus for each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2809/11]

Following recommendations made by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, schemes of performance-related awards were formerly applicable to the grades ofDeputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary in the civil service. Payments were last made in 2008 in respect of the year 2007. Information on these payments is available in the Report of the Committee for Performance Awards which oversaw the scheme. The report is available on the website of my Department — www.finance.gov.ie Following my announcement on 5 February 2009 this award scheme has been terminated. No payments were made in respect of 2008 or subsequent years. Bonus payments have not been made to other staff of my Department.

In a comprehensive reply to a previous Parliamentary Question reference was made to special service payments and seniority allowances, averaging in the region of €2,000, made to some staff in the grades of Principal and Assistant Principal. While there were some suggestions that these were bonuses, the payments in question were made under the provision in the Agreement "Programme for Competitiveness and Work" whereby 1% of the payroll of the grades concerned was made available through local negotiation. Most Departments opted to use his provision in a manner which incorporated the payments into their payroll. In the Department of Finance, the amount available was used for special service payments and seniority payments for some staff. As indicated by the Taoiseach on 15 December last, these payments are not bonuses.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

127 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if promotion to middle management and higher grades in his Department is made by way of competition; if there have been any exceptions to this practice over the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2810/11]

Current arrangements provide that 90% and 85% respectively of promotions to the grades of Assistant Principal and Principal in my Department are made on a competitive basis. All promotions that occurred in the period referred to by the Deputy were made in accordance with these arrangements. Appointments to the post of Secretary General of my Department are made by the Government. Appointments to all other posts at Assistant Secretary level and above are made following competitions held by the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC). The Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 provides that merit-based competitive promotion will be the norm in the future.

Financial Services Regulation

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

128 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered opening the selling market for the national solidarity bond and the proposed sovereign annuity bond to regulated intermediaries in addition to being available through An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2822/11]

The National Solidarity Bond is one product in the range of State Savings products offered by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) to personal savers through the post office network. The main State Savings products are

Prize Bonds

3-year Savings Bonds

5½-year Savings Certificates

10-year National Solidarity Bond

State Savings Accounts (demand and 30 day notice)

A new 4-year National Solidarity Bond which was announced in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 (published on 24 November 2010) is expected to be launched in the coming weeks.

All the State Savings products, including the National Solidarity Bond, are readily available to the public through the network of over 1,000 post offices and also by post. Information on the savings products is also provided through a telephone call centre service and on the web. In addition, Prize Bonds may be purchased online and by telephone. The new bonds to be issued by the NTMA to facilitate the sovereign annuity market as part of the changes in the framework of the pensions industry will be distributed through the NTMA's primary dealer network and members of the Irish Stock Exchange. I do not envisage any changes to the current selling arrangements.

Pension Provisions

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

129 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax forgone in pension relief for the latest available year; the amount of tax levied or paid on lump sum pension payments for the latest available year; his views on whether tax relief will make pension contributions more attractive and affordable; if he has considered an annual levy on pension funds as an alternative to reducing personal pension relief; the amount that could be raised if a levy was set at various levels from 0.25% to 1%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2823/11]

The following table provides a breakdown of the estimated cost of tax and PRSI reliefs relating to private pension contributions for 2007, the latest year for which the most up-to-date data is available. Figures have been rounded where appropriate.

Estimate of the cost of tax and PRSI reliefs on private pension contributions 2007.

Estimated costs

Numbers*

€million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

590

708,100

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

150

385,100**

Estimated cost of exemption of employers’ contributions from employee BIK

540

385,100

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

410 (revised)

123,900

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs)

60 (revised)

56,400

Estimated cost of PRSI and Health Levy relief on employee contributions

240

Not available*

*Numbers as included in P35 returns from employers to Revenue for 2007. Figures are as verified to date but may be understated and subject to revision.

**Numbers of employees for whom employers are contributing to occupational pension funds as included in P35 returns to Revenue for 2007. Figures are as verified to date but may be understated and subject to revision.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that while corresponding updates of the cost figures are not yet available for the tax year 2008 the necessary work to enable this to be done is ongoing. There is not sufficient data yet available to the Revenue Commissioners in relation to pension contributions in 2009 which would allow for full cost figures to be provided. No data is available for 2010.

Section 790AA of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 places a lifetime limit on the amount of a tax-free retirement lump sum that can be taken by an individual from 7 December 2005. This limit was set at 25% of the maximum tax-relieved pension fund (or standard fund threshold — SFT) and as at end-2010 the limit stood at about €1.35 million. Any balance of a retirement lump sum greater than this amount was liable to tax at the individual's marginal rate of income tax. The Revenue Commissioners' have no separate records of amounts paid to or received by them as income tax on lump sum payments in excess of 25% of the SFT.

Since most individuals likely to have been impacted by the provision would have had an option or choice to commute part of their pension benefits to a lump sum, they are likely to have chosen a lump sum amount at or below the limit. As announced in my Budget 2011 speech and to be included in the forthcoming Finance Bill, the maximum lifetime retirement tax-free lump sum is €200,000 as on and from 1 January 2011. Amounts in excess of this reduced tax-free limit are subject to tax in two stages. The portion between €200,000 and €575,000 is taxed at the standard rate of 20% while any portion above that is taxed at the individual's marginal rate of tax. The figure of €575,000 represents 25% of the new lower SFT of €2.3 million, which reduction was also announced in Budget 2011.

There is a view that a gradual reduction in the tax relief available on pension contributions as provided for in the recently published National Recovery Plan will encourage individuals to maximise their pension contributions in the coming years. On the other hand, alternative views have been expressed to the effect that as pension savings and the tax relief arrangements for those savings represent deferred income and deferred taxation, changes in tax relief may discourage pension savings. The argument in this case is that individuals liable to tax at the higher income tax rate, including those on modest incomes, may consider that it would not be in their interest to continue to make contributions at a gradually reducing rate of tax relief if there is a risk that the pension income they will ultimately secure from those contributions might be taxed at a higher rate, notwithstanding that this would not be the outcome for many of those affected. Clearly it is difficult to predict what the behavioural impact of the changes is likely to be.

The National Recovery Plan recognises the potential disincentive effect on supplementary pension provision of a reduction in tax relief to the standard rate and for this reason the Government has indicated its willingness to engage with the pensions industry to examine potential alternative approaches to securing the quantum of savings from pension tax expenditures set out in the Plan and this engagement has commenced.

An annual levy on pension funds is a potential alternative that could be considered in this regard. However, since pension funds are not subject to a levy at this time and since the investment income and gains of such funds are also exempt from tax, there is no requirement on pension fund managers or administrators, generally, to make returns to the Revenue Commissioners in respect of relevant data on pension funds under their management. I am not in a position in the absence of relevant data at this time, therefore, to provide reliable estimates of the yields from the application of a pension levy at the rates set out in the question.

Tax Collection

Jack Wall

Question:

130 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reason tax credit has been reduced in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2827/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they first contacted the person concerned in relation to a tax credit claimed in January 2010. As no reply was received to that correspondence, a further letter was issued on 27 August 2010 explaining that the tax credit under enquiry was being withdrawn. PAYE Balancing Statements (P21) for the tax years 2006-2009 inclusive, issued on the same day. As outlined in the statements issued, part of the underpayment arising is being recovered by reducing the tax credits of the person concerned for 2011. On 17 December 2010, a certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point for 2011 issued to the person concerned detailing the tax credits and the amount of the underpayment being collected in 2011. The balance of the underpayment will be recovered over the years 2012 and 2013.

Departmental Reports

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

131 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if the report of the independent review panel chaired by a person (details supplied) which has now been completed will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2828/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the Report provides a set of recommendations relating to structures, resources and processes in the Department. While a number of recommendations are matters for Government after proper consideration, a significant number relate to working structures, staffing and work practices and can be addressed in the Department. Work on an implementation plan has already commenced within the Department. The Report will be considered by Government in the first instance and then published.

Flood Relief

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

132 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if contact has been made with the Office of Public Works regarding flooding at a river at Ballycatlan, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan which has caused extensive damage to lands belonging to a person (details supplied); if there are plans in place to resolve this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2838/11]

The lands concerned are served by two channels of the Glyde & Dee Arterial Drainage Scheme. The Office of Public Works is statutorily responsible for the maintenance of the scheme. The channels are maintained on a three to four year cycle to ensure that the scheme operates to design level.

The OPW was in contact with the landowner last year, and maintenance was subsequently undertaken to one of the channels. Due to an issue regarding access, it was not possible to maintain the remaining channel. The OPW previously attempted to maintain this channel in 2006 but was unable to complete the work at that time due to access issues. The OPW will arrange to meet with the landowner with a view to resolving the matter and carrying out the necessary channel maintenance.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme

Enda Kenny

Question:

133 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to create a platform for the servicing and wind down of impaired assets; the work that has been carried out on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2917/11]

The Programme of Financial Support for Ireland provides for financial sector reforms. As part of the agreement with the EC, IMF and EU, the State has agreed to adopt deleveraging measures and to implement restructuring of the banking sector. To this end, a Prudential Liquidity Assessment Review or "PLAR" will establish target funding ratios for each of the banks, identify non core assets and set an adjustment path to these targets based on specified non public annual benchmarks.

The Central Bank's Prudential Capital Assessment Review or PCAR exercise, which was an important part of the technical discussions underpinning the negotiated package of assistance with the IMF and our European partners, will be enhanced to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the underlying assets of the banks. The completion of the Central Bank's PCAR/PLAR exercise will be a key step in the restructuring of our banks. The further deleveraging of the banks is to be achieved in part by transferring from AIB and Bank of Ireland to NAMA land and development loans which had been previously excluded from transfer by virtue of their being below a value threshold of €20m. The Programme requires that "[t]he NAMA legislation will be amended to underpin the valuation and acquisition of these assets on a portfolio basis" and that NAMA will apply different discounts to categories of loans "based on NAMA's loan valuation experience up to the point of valuation". I will be introducing proposals to amend the legislation in near future to allow for the transfer of these pooled categorised eligible assets.

The analysis of all the options that could be used in a restructuring exercise is still ongoing. Proposals arising from such an analysis would have to be considered by Government of course before they could be adopted.

Enda Kenny

Question:

134 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the sale of EBS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2919/11]

Two bids for EBS are currently being considered: one from Irish Life & Permanent and the other from an international consortium led by Cardinal Capital Group. The deadline for receipt of the bids from each party was 17 January 2011 and each party submitted their respective bids by the required deadline. Each bid is now being evaluated with a view to deciding the best strategy for taking the process forward. It would not be proper for me to comment further at this stage until the formal evaluation has been concluded.

National Parks

John O'Donoghue

Question:

135 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Finance when the Commissioners of Public Works will complete a licence agreement with Kerry County Council to facilitate the extension of the Abbey Island cemetery in Derrynane National Park. [2924/11]

The Office of Public Works has already agreed in principle to the proposed transfer of land to facilitate the extension of the Abbey Island cemetery, subject to OPW's specific concerns being met. We will be arranging a meeting in the immediate future with officials from Kerry County Council to expedite the process.

Public Service Pay

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

136 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it is reasonable to enforce a 5% cut on individuals who are not public servants as has happened in the case of low paid school caretakers and secretaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2964/11]

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 provides for the reduction in the pay rates of all persons employed by public service bodies, with effect from 1 January 2010. The caretakers and secretaries referred to in the question are deemed to be public servants within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 and this position has been confirmed by legal advice.

I approved a temporary exemption under Section 6 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act for certain categories of workers in the education sector (including certain caretakers and secretaries) until 31 December 2010. Accordingly, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act has been applied to those specific categories of workers in the education sector since 1 January 2011 only. It is understood that approximately €22 million in savings will be secured in 2011 through an average 5% reduction in funding grants to schools and Vocational Educational Committees. The reduced funding will reflect the reduction in pay since 1 January 2011.

Consultancy Contracts

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

137 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the details on the number of consultancy contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) since 2006 by each Government and State agency giving the title of each assignment, the duration of the contract and the financial consideration for each assignment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2984/11]

The following table sets out the details of the number of contracts to the company in question by public bodies under my remit in each of the past five years (2006 to 2010) and to date in 2011.

Body

Year

Detail

National Treasury Management Agency

2009

Following a procurement process, London Economics (which is part of the Indecon Group) was contracted by the NTMA to carry out an econometric study which was required in order to derive adjustment factors which were used as a basis for the long-term economic value regulations which underpinned the NAMA valuation methodology. The cost of the study was €108,000 (including VAT) and it was carried out in November/ December 2009

The Office of the Ombudsman, the Valuation Office, the State Laboratory, the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Office of the Appeals Commissioner, the Office of the Revenue Commissioner, the Public Appointments Service, the Commission for Public Service Appointments, the Office of Public Works and the Special EU Programmes Body and the National Asset Management Agency did not make any payments to the company in question during the period in question. The information in relation to my own Department was provided in the response to parliamentary question number 48187/10 on the 12th January, 2011.

Health Insurance

Sean Sherlock

Question:

138 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to request the VHI to reduce its charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2801/11]

VHI announced price changes in relation to a range of its plans on 6 January 2011, which will take effect on 1 February 2011. I am very disappointed at the decision of the VHI to increase its prices so significantly. There is no doubt that the increases will make it harder for those who benefit most from health insurance to renew their policies.

As Minister for Health and Children I have responsibility for governance matters relating to the VHI, such as Board appointments and the receipt of its annual report and accounts. While owned by the State, VHI is a not-for-profit company operating in a competitive market. I strongly believe it would be inappropriate for any Minister to interfere in matters relating to prices set by any one company which is required to compete fairly within that market.

I want to ensure, however, that everyone is aware of the various alternative health insurance policies on offer. It is important to stress that customers have a legal right to switch between or within insurers to get better value, including better cover or to reduce their premium costs. It is not open to a company to refuse a customer of another insurer the same level of cover. The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) provide advice on switching by telephone or via the internet and I would urge any consumers with concerns to contact the HIA. I have asked the HIA to monitor the situation closely to ensure that all customers are given accurate information about their right to switch policies, without penalty. The HIA will play an important role for customers, both in ensuring that they have accurate information, and in monitoring the implementation of the law protecting consumers in relation to health insurance.

I am committed to protecting our community-rated market through risk equalisation. A system of risk equalisation is particularly necessary in the Irish market because, for historical reasons, the VHI has a greatly disproportionate share of older customers, as is evident from the fact that is has 80% by value of all claims in the market but only 62% of all customers.

The Government had a risk equalisation scheme in place but following a challenge by BUPA, the scheme was struck down by the Supreme Court in July 2008. In response the Government introduced a temporary scheme of tax relief/community rating levy in January 2009 which provides a very significant degree of support for the cost of health insurance claims by older people. It allows insurers with additional costs arising from insuring older people, to be compensated for up to, but no more than, 65% of these additional costs. This was increased from a figure of 50% in 2009 and 2010 following advice from the Health Insurance Authority.

The Government is also preparing to put in place a risk equalisation scheme that will ‘equalise' risk as far as is possible on age, health status and gender grounds. The scheme is designed to be legally robust and to be fully in accordance with European and Irish law requirements. The Health Insurance Authority has completed its consultation process on risk equalisation and submitted its analysis and recommendations to me on 23 December 2010. I am currently considering this report and I intend to prepare legislation for a transitional scheme which will come into effect in 2012 and a risk equalisation scheme to come into effect at the start of 2013.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Michael Creed

Question:

139 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Crohn’s disease is not included under the long-term illness scheme and if, in view of the similar nature of this disease to many included in the existing long-term illness scheme, she will make arrangements to have it added to the list of conditions under the long-term illness scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2825/11]

There are no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme. Under the Drugs Payment Scheme no individual or family pays more than €120 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Child Care Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

140 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 132 of 15 December 2010, if she will provide an update on the matter; when she expects a decision to be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2833/11]

As previously pointed out to the Deputy the company in question was approved capital grant funding under the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006-2010 of up to €520,000 to develop child care facilities. The company then sought additional funding and I understand that Pobal, who administer grants on behalf of my Office, is still awaiting a response from the company in relation to a number of issues raised by them and that the matter will not be progressed until these issues are resolved.

Health Service Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

141 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of consultant paediatrician ear, nose and throat surgeons attached to Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin; the average waiting time to see a consultant; the number of persons on the waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2834/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

142 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of consultant paediatrician neurologists attached to Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin; the number of persons on the waiting list; the average waiting time to see a consultant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2835/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 142 together.

As these are service matters, they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

John McGuinness

Question:

143 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm if a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny is on a pension; the reason there is a difference of €10,000 in the period 17 September 1996 to 31 March 1998 in the amount they were actually paid and the amount the Health Service Executive says they were paid; if the irregularities of that time will be investigated and resolved; if payments due to this person from that time will be paid; if copies of the pension documents signed by the person ten years ago will be made available to them; if their pension entitlements will be outlined to them; if payment to them will continue under pension group 038; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2942/11]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

144 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be assessed for a specific purpose. [2956/11]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services

Jack Wall

Question:

145 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there are no Health Service Executive mental health rehabilitation training places in south Kildare; her plans to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2973/11]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Jack Wall

Question:

146 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be informed of their application for the fair deal package; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2990/11]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Motor Taxation

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

147 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider the points raised in correspondence (details supplied); if he will give an assurance that classic cars, which are off road or under restoration, will not be liable for motor tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2812/11]

The question of liability for motor tax for classic cars whether they are off road or under restoration is not the responsibility of my Department. I have no function in the matter.

Driving Tests

Tom Hayes

Question:

148 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport if he has investigated the inclusion of the following elements in driver testing: driving outside a 50 km/h zone, driving on a motorway, or similar situation, navigating complex roundabouts, emergency stop and proper lane management; when these elements were included on the test; if not included in the test, when they will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2818/11]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Tom Hayes

Question:

149 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport his assessment of the new driving test system; how well this has been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2820/11]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Road Network

Paul Kehoe

Question:

150 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport in respect of the N11 Oilgate to Rosslare bypass, if all spending on this proposal ceased; if a decision on the route will be announced in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2944/11]

The construction, improvement and maintenance of national roads, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under Sections 17 and 19 of the Roads Acts 1993, as amended, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. I have no function in relation to the issues raised by the Deputy.

Citizenship Applications

Seymour Crawford

Question:

151 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the length of time it normally takes for a person from another European state to have his or her application for Irish citizenship dealt with, providing everything is in order; if there is any danger of having to pay more towards the cost of same at the time the citizenship is actually granted as against the time citizenship is applied for; if there is any way he or she can be guaranteed that it will be for the amount originally advised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2842/11]

The average processing time from application to decision for the generality of valid applications for a certificate of naturalisation is currently 26 months. The fee payable, where an application for a certificate of naturalisation is successful, is a certification fee that is prescribed in legislation and it is the date of issue of the certificate rather than the date of application that must be taken into account. The certification fee is reviewed periodically and no guarantee can be given in any case that the fee payable will remain at a particular amount.

Juvenile Detention Centres

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

152 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the schedule for the completion of the national children detention centre at Oberstown, County Dublin; if it will be delayed in present financial circumstances and if so, the length of time envisaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2816/11]

Following Government approval for the development of new national children detention facilities at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin, the design process is well underway. Planning approval is in place and some advance works have recently commenced on site with a view to enabling the main works at a later date.

The development is to be completed in phases in order to ensure the continued operation of the existing facilities until such time as the new facilities are available. Detailed specifications are currently being developed in order to go to tender for construction of the new facilities. While it is the intention that phase 1 of the development, which will provide places for the 16 -17 age group (currently accommodated in St. Patrick's Institution) will be completed at the earliest possible date, the Deputy will appreciate that tendering for the project will be subject to Government approval and to the necessary funding being made available.

Visa Applications

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

153 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will consider the points raised in correspondence (details supplied) on the reunification of a family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2829/11]

The person concerned has to date made a number of visa applications for various purposes, none of which has been successful. The Deputy will already be aware of the particular circumstances and refusal reasons concerning all of the applications to date for the person concerned, as these were outlined in some detail in my letter to the Deputy dated 21 August 2009. The Deputy will be aware from that letter that previous visa applications were refused for several reasons unconnected with this person's relationship with an Irish Born Child (IBC). I can advise the Deputy that a fresh visa application is currently under consideration. That consideration will take into account all of the available information. It is expected that a decision on this application will be made shortly.

Judicial Reviews

Alan Shatter

Question:

154 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of judicial review cases instituted to review the decisions made by him, or his officials, on immigration matters including entry visas, residence and repatriation applications. [2995/11]

In 2010 there were 347 Judicial Review cases brought before the High Court challenging decisions relating to immigration matters as outlined by the Deputy. This figure does not include challenges to decisions of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in relation to asylum matters.

Passport Applications

Sean Sherlock

Question:

155 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way he arrived at the figure of €80, the new fee now applied to passports issued to those aged 65 years, a large percentage of whom count the State pension as their only source of income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2819/11]

The arrangement whereby citizens aged 65 and over were exempted from passport fees was introduced in 2005. In light of the current budgetary situation, the Government found it necessary to discontinue this arrangement. Accordingly, all passport applicants aged 18 years or over will pay the same fee of €80 for a ten year passport.

Redundancy Payments

John O'Donoghue

Question:

156 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their statutory redundancy payment. [2929/11]

On 1 January 2011, the Department assumed responsibility for making redundancy payments from the Social Insurance Fund. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the fund i.e. rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation. I can confirm that statutory redundancy lump sum claims in respect of the individuals concerned were received on 22 September, 2010. These claims are pending processing. Lump sum claims dating from June 2010 are currently being processed.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

157 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a redundant person (details supplied) must submit a further RP50 to claim their statutory redundancy. [2941/11]

I understand the individual concerned took a case for unfair dismissal against his employer before the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in July 2009. The Tribunal found in favour of the claimant that he was unfairly dismissed and awarded him an amount equivalent to two years' salary. It is the duty of the employer in the first instance to make such payments to the employee. I understand that the employer subsequently ceased trading and did not pay the award to the employee. As the case was deemed to be one of unfair dismissal the matter of redundancy does not arise and consequently a form RP50 is not required. In cases where an employer is in liquidation and unable to pay an unfair dismissal award, it is possible to consider the case under insolvency legislation and, depending on the circumstances of the case, to make a payment from the Social Insurance Fund. Given the nature of this case I have made arrangements to have a senior official investigate the matter and to contact the individual concerned directly.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seymour Crawford

Question:

158 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social Protection the length of time it takes for an appeal to be heard for someone applying for farm assist, carer’s allowance or any other social welfare payments that may be appealed; if he is satisfied that someone should have to wait up to 18 months to have their appeal dealt with and the steps he is taking to resolve the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2840/11]

David Stanton

Question:

161 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 487 of 8 July 2010, if he will provide a breakdown of the total number of staff employed by the social welfare appeals office in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 respectively per grade; the number of additional staff, appeals officers, administration staff and so on, who have been allocated to the social welfare appeals office to deal with the backlog of appeals since January 2010; if the eight retired officers have also begun working in this office; if there are plans to allocate further additional staff to the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2969/11]

David Stanton

Question:

162 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 487 of 8 July 2010, if he will provide a breakdown of the total number of appeals received by the social welfare appeals office by each payment respectively in 2010 and the number received to date in 2011; if he will further provide a breakdown of the total number of appeals currently awaiting decision by the social welfare appeals office per respective social welfare payment; the current average time waiting time for oral hearing; the average time it takes to fully process appeals for each respective payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2970/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 161 and 162 together.

Figures in regard to the numbers of cases received and outstanding, by scheme, for 2010 and the number of staff in the Social Welfare Appeals Office, are given in the tables with this reply. Figures for 2011 in regard to the numbers of cases received and outstanding, per scheme, are not yet readily available.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the average waiting for an appeal dealt with by way of a summary decision is 27.4 weeks, while the average time to process an oral hearing is 45.6 weeks. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

A number of initiatives have been taken in recent years to deal with the increases in numbers of cases in the Appeals process. In addition to the provision of extra staff, more emphasis was placed on dealing with appeals on a summary basis so as to increase productivity. As a result, the number of appeals dealt with by way of oral hearing was reduced from 59% in 2009 to 31.5% in 2010.

The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010 facilitated the use of experienced retired former Appeals Officers, on a strictly temporary basis to assist in reducing the backlog of Social Welfare Appeals cases. The matter of assigning additional Appeals Officers is kept under constant review but any consideration of extra assignments must be taken in the context of overall government policy on civil service numbers. A project to improve the business processes in the office was also undertaken which has resulted in a number of improvements being implemented and significant enhancements have been made to the office's IT and phone systems.

As a result of all of these initiatives, a total of 17,499 appeals were finalised by Appeals Officers in 2010 in comparison to 10,027 for 2009. When revised decisions and withdrawn cases are taken into account the total number of cases finalised in 2010 was 28,166 in comparison to 17,787 for 2009.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals, while ensuring that any progress does not conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

Appeals Received by Scheme 2010

Appeals awaiting decision at 1/1/2011

Average time take to process appeals by summary decision by scheme in 2010

Average time take to process appeals following oral hearing by scheme in 2010

Adoptive Benefit

2

2

32.6

Blind Pension

13

7

19.8

39.4

Carers Allowance

2,969

2,145

26.9

47.3

Carers Benefit

180

73

21.6

44.2

Child Benefit

1,050

1,187

48.4

63.1

Disability Allowance

4,568

3,046

30.8

51.1

Illness Benefit

5,313

2,658

39.2

56.4

Domiciliary Care

1,827

1,386

26.8

49.1

Deserted Wives Benefit

14

14

33.9

29.0

Farm Assist

244

163

23.2

50.7

Bereavement Grant

59

30

25.1

Family Income Supplement

224

105

21.4

29.0

Homemakers

1

15.3

Invalidity Pension

998

612

40.9

59.7

Liable Relatives

16

22

35.9

One Parent Family Payment

1,085

819

30.2

49.4

Maternity Benefit

29

21

37.7

State Pension (Contributory)

258

110

29.6

49.2

State Pension (Non-Cont)

353

230

26.5

49.9

State Pension (Transition)

7

11

30.7

Occupational Injury Benefit

22

18

55.7

53.8

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

22

49

32.5

67.9

Disablement Pension

343

334

27.4

51.9

Death Benefit (Pension)

69.6

Incapacity Supplement

15

15

30.7

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

26

26

25.3

48.3

Guardian’s Payment (NonCon)

7

9

24.3

42.2

Pre-Retirement Allowance

2

1

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

4,000

2,496

22.2

46.9

Jobseeker’s Allowance

5,488

3,312

23.6

43.0

Jobseeker’s Benefit

1,292

766

22.6

36.0

JA/JB Fraud Control

3

6

Respite Care Grant

162

114

30.5

49.1

Insurability of Employment

121

112

31.3

67.4

Supplementary Welfare All

989

343

6.9

14.8

Treatment Benefits

8

4

21.9

57.8

Survivor’s Pension (Con)

20

14

35.2

53.6

Survivor’s Pension (NonCon)

12

13

31.9

54.6

Widows Parent Grant

3

1

20.9

Staff of Social Welfare Appeals Office

Grade

2008

2009

2010

2011

Chief Appeals Officer

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

Deputy Chief Appeals Officer

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

Office Manager

1.0

—*

Appeals Officers

16.4

18.4

19.6

19.6

Retired Appeals Officers (from July 2010)

3.0

3.0

Higher Executive Officers

2.8

2.8

2.8

2.8

Executive Officers

8.9

8.9

9.2

9.2

Staff Officers

5.0

5.0

5.0

5.0

Clerical Officers

18.4

18.4

22.6

22.6

Total

54.5

56.5

64.2

64.2

*From February 2009, the position of Office Manager has been subsumed into the duties of the Deputy Chief Appeals Officer.

Social Welfare Code

Seymour Crawford

Question:

159 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will have investigations made into the way self-employed persons are actually accessed in respect of their incomes; if it is on audited accounts, farm accounts in the case of farm assist or some other means; if he will ensure that this system is clarified to enable persons to understand whether they are entitled to social protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2841/11]

Self-employed people can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. Self-employed customers do not have to de-register as self-employed persons in order to claim jobseeker's allowance. Information on social welfare entitlements, including for self employed people, is set out on the Department's website www.welfare.ie.

Legislation provides for the assessment of "all income in cash and any non-cash benefits which the person or his or her spouse may reasonably expect to receive during the succeeding year". While accounts provide significant information, a means assessment is not based solely on audited accounts or farm accounts. The income from the previous twelve months is used as an indicator of likely future earnings but it is not simply assumed that the previous year's earnings will be received in the following year. Given the variety of self-employment situations, the means assessment procedures in these cases are applied in a flexible manner and they ensure that any circumstances that would be likely to lead to a significant variation, either upward or downward, in the level of a person's income from one year to the next are taken into consideration.

It is recognised that the present downturn in the economy is having a significant impact on many self-employed persons and the consequent reduction in their income and activity levels would be reflected in any assessment of their means from self-employment for jobseeker's allowance purposes. If a self-employed person's situation changes after they have made an initial claim for jobseeker's allowance, the person can apply to have his or her means reviewed in the light of these changed circumstances. In addition, it is open to the individual to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office if he or she is dissatisfied with the level of means assessed. To ensure consistency in the application of the legislation, guidelines are issued to Deciding Officers in order to ensure a consistent and uniform application of the rules governing the deciding of jobseeker's allowance claims.

Social Welfare Appeals

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

160 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the progress of an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2952/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Questions Nos. 161 and 162 answered with Question No. 158.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Ring

Question:

163 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a back to education allowance in respect of a person (details suppled) in County Mayo. [2976/11]

The person concerned applied for a back to education allowance (BTEA) payment in September 2010 to pursue a FETAC level 5 child care course. Her application was disallowed on 16th November 2010 as she already holds a qualification at an equivalent or higher level. This decision was reviewed and the disallowance was upheld.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Ring

Question:

164 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal regarding jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [2977/11]

The file of the person concerned is currently with an inspector for a review of her means. This will be carried out as soon as possible and she will be notified of the outcome.

Social Welfare Benefits

Beverley Flynn

Question:

165 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Social Protection if a recipient of farm assist is offered casual employment lasting four days which will result in a net payment to them of €300 after expenses, the effect this will have on their farm assist payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2986/11]

Farm assist is a means-assessed payment. Assessable income for means purposes is gross earnings less deductions for PRSI, superannuation (including AVCs and PRSAs), the pension levy and union dues. The person's net average assessable weekly earnings are assessed by reference to the previous 13 weeks (or another period if this is more representative of the person's normal working pattern).

Earnings from insurable employment are assessed as means using the following method: a disregard of €20 a day for each day worked by the customer up to a maximum of 3 days each week applies (maximum €60 a week) and the balance of the earnings is assessed at 60%. Should the person be offered casual employment lasting a total of four days only, earnings are assessed for that week using the formula above. If the means are in excess of the family rate for that week, then no entitlement exists for that week.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brian O'Shea

Question:

166 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on the invalidity pension application of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2993/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 5 October 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received back in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 11 November 2010 and the appeal has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Sports Capital Programme

John O'Donoghue

Question:

167 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when a balance of sports capital grant will be granted to an organisation (details supplied) in County Kerry. [2926/11]

The terms and conditions of the Sports Capital Programme include a requirement, for grantees in receipt of allocations that cumulatively exceed certain threshold levels, to execute a Deed of Covenant and Charge, which is designed to protect the Minister's and taxpayers' interest in the grant-aided facility.

The Department's legal adviser, the Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO), deals with the grantee's solicitor in executing this Deed. The required documents were submitted by the applicant's solicitors to the CSSO on 22 December 2010 and these are currently being reviewed to ensure that they meet the legal requirements of the Sports Capital Programme. Once the Department is notified by the CSSO that the legal issues are concluded, the Department may progress the payment of the grant.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

168 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when payment of a sports capital grant will issue to a sports centre (details supplied). [2927/11]

Payment of an allocation under the Sports Capital Programme is subject to compliance on the part of the grantee with the Programme's terms and conditions. Provisional allocations under the Programme cannot be formally approved until all legal requirements are met. The grantee in question was informed in the letter of provisional allocation on 9 May 2007 that no works should be carried out prior to receipt of formal approval from the Department. The terms and conditions include a requirement, for grantees in receipt of allocations that cumulatively exceed certain threshold levels, to execute a Deed of Covenant and Charge, which is designed to protect the Minister and taxpayers' interest in the grant-aided facility.

Where grantees hold a lease to the property in question, and that lease contains a forfeiture clause, grantees are required to have the landlord execute a landlord agreement. This agreement stipulates that in the event that the facility reverts to the landlord within the period of the Minister's charge, the landlord will either maintain the facility in sporting use or repay the unexpired value of the grant to the Department. The Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO) advised in September of last year that landlord agreements should remain an integral part of the Minister's security under the Department's capital programmes.

In the case of the grantee in question, the landlord refuses to enter into such a landlord agreement. The Department is consulting with the CSSO and the landlord concerned to identify a solution to this matter. The Department wrote to the CSSO on 21 December last providing observations on draft proposals to resolve this matter. The Department is to meet with the CSSO shortly with a view to bringing this process of consultation to a conclusion. Payment of the grant will not be possible until these legal issues are resolved.

Consultancy Contracts

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

169 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will provide the details on the number of consultancy contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) since 2006 by each Government and State agency giving the title of each assignment, the duration of the contract and the financial consideration for each assignment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2985/11]

Since 2006, my Department has awarded two consultancy contracts to the company in question, the details of which are as set out in tabular form below.

Year

Title/Purpose

Cost

Duration

2006

The provision of advice in relation to the National Conference Centre project

10,200

12.5 Days

2008

An economic evaluation of the benefit to the island of Ireland of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

114,000

12 Months

The awarding of contracts by the State agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the agencies themselves.

Arts Funding

Finian McGrath

Question:

170 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she will support Ireland’s working artists as a matter of urgency. [2994/11]

Government Policy in the area of support for the arts and artists is set out in the Programme for Government. This policy is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life, and maximise the potential for cultural tourism. Primary responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council which, under the Arts Act, is independent in its funding decisions. In 2011, the Arts Council has received an allocation of over €65 million.

The Government appreciates the importance of the arts, culture and creative industries to both our society and to our economy. I am conscious not only of the role of the sector in providing vital opportunities for self-expression and participation, but also of the economic potential of the arts and creative industries and in particular of providing conditions in which the creative industries can flourish. The Government is committed to supporting the crucial constituent sectors of arts and culture within limited available financial resources.

Wildlife Protection

Enda Kenny

Question:

171 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact of the extensive damage and destruction of native wildlife carried out by mink; if this species is considered as vermin here; his plans to eradicate mink including consideration of a bounty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2918/11]

Mink found in the wild in Ireland are descended from animals that escaped from fur farms. They have been breeding in the countryside since the 1950s and are now found throughout much of the country.

A report published by my Department in 2009 estimated the potential population of wild mink in the State as between 20,500 and 33,500 individuals. The report identified ground nesting birds as the species most vulnerable to mink predation. Accordingly, my Department is concentrating its resources on protecting the nesting sites of rare and threatened bird species, including red-throated diver, corncrake, grey partridge, waders and terns, from a range of predators including mink. Experience has shown that targeted control of predators at specific times can have a significant benefit to the breeding success of these species. Last year, some €73,000 was spent on this work. I have no proposals to introduce a bounty. As wild mink are not protected under the Wildlife Acts they can be controlled by landowners and their agents.

Housing Aid for the Elderly

Deirdre Clune

Question:

172 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when funding will be provided for the housing aid for older people scheme administered through the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2945/11]

To comprehensively assess the overall level of demand for grant assistance under the suite of Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, my Department requested local authorities to submit details of their funding requirements for 2011, with a view to determining the allocations for this year as soon as possible after the publication of the 2011 Revised Estimates for Public Services. To provide for continuity in the processing of applications and the payment of grants under the various grant measures, local authorities were advised by my Department that they could commit up to 50% of their 2010 allocation for payment to applicants in 2011.

Private Rented Accommodation

Richard Bruton

Question:

173 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that the legal provisions in relation to private rental accommodation are adequate to ensure properties are well maintained and do not present an appearance of neglect; if he is further satisfied that the Private Residential Tenancies Board is an adequate vehicle to allow proper standards of maintenance and conduct to be upheld and a speedy system of redress when complaints arise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2958/11]

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. These Regulations were further amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses)(Amendment) Regulations 2009 which expanded the definition of "a proper state of structural repair" to allow for all aspects of the internal and external appearance of a dwelling to be taken into account for the purposes of the Regulations.

All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations. Responsibility for enforcing the regulations rests with the relevant local authority, supported by a dedicated stream of funding allocated by my Department. This funding increased significantly between 2005 and 2009, rising from €1.5m to €4m. In 2010, I increased by €1.6m the amount allocated to housing authorities for the purpose of carrying out their functions under the Housing Acts in relation to rented accommodation. This total allocation of €5.6m for 2010, which brings the total funding for this purpose since 2004 to over €20m, was paid using a combined methodology based on the number of inspections carried out by each housing authority and on once-off strategically-planned programmes of inspection which may be carried out by housing authorities in addition to their usual inspection activity.

In general, local authorities have significantly expanded their inspection activity in recent years with the number of inspections increasing by almost 300% — from 6,815 to 19,801 — in the period 2005 to 2009. Details of the inspections of private rented accommodation carried out, the dwellings inspected which did not meet the statutory standards and prosecutions initiated up to 2009 on a county/city basis are included in my Department's Annual Housing Statistics Bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library and on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. The 2009 data show a year on year increase in the number of inspections carried out of approximately 15%, to 19,801 inspections, and this reflects the positive impact of the overall Action Programme on Standards, including increased funding, introduced on foot of a commitment in the Towards 2016 social partnership agreement, and progress with the implementation of the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

It is a matter for each individual local authority to decide the specific details of its enforcement strategy and inspection arrangements. However, in discharging their responsibilities in relation to the rental sector, authorities have been asked to have regard to the Good Practice Guidelines for Local Authorities on Standards in the Private Rented Sector: Strategic Planning, Effective Enforcement published by the Centre for Housing Research in November 2007, which make a range of recommendations on relevant issues, including targeting inspection activities.

Following the enactment of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, a comprehensive new sanctions regime is available to local authorities and fines for non-compliance with the Regulations have been significantly increased; the maximum fine has increased from €3,000 to €5,000 and the fine for each day of a continuing offence has increased from €250 to €400. In addition to the increased sanctions, there is a significant amendment to the current definition of "a proper state of structural repair" as set out in the 1992 Act and Article 5 of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008. The new definition provides a comprehensive list of components against which a dwelling can be assessed to verify that it is structurally sound. The inclusion in this definition of a requirement to maintain gardens and common areas in good condition means that there is now an obligation on landlords to maintain the external appearance of rented accommodation.

As the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) is an independent statutory body I have no function in its operational matters. However, dispute resolution statistics are published as part of the annual report of the PRTB and are available on their website at www.prtb.ie. The 2009 statistics reveal that only 4% of all disputes (75 cases in number) related to standard and maintenance of dwellings. While those statistics also indicate an ongoing improvement in case processing times it is acknowledged that, partly as a consequence of the Board's success in ensuring registration compliance, and the resulting large workloads arising, processing times for dispute resolution are not yet optimal.

In November 2009, I announced the key outcomes of a review of the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 which I had initiated in order to consider whether the Act best supported the PRTB's key functions and whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector. These outcomes have an overall emphasis on streamlining and simplifying the Act, reducing delays and achieving additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of its functions. Full details in relation to the background to the review, the associated terms of reference and the outcomes of the review are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Commonage Division

Noel Coonan

Question:

174 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if certain commonage lands parcels (details supplied) were inspected and assessed by two separate teams from his Department during 2010 and whether both assessments were carried out in accordance with his Department’s direction and with the relevant technical manual; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2799/11]

My Department has carried out a comprehensive review of the eligibility of commonages land declared under the Single Payment Scheme and Disadvantaged Areas Scheme including the commonage referred to. In order to deal with the queries that have been raised in relation to these commonages, I have arranged for the matter to be reviewed by my Department. This review will incorporate a ground inspection to verify the level of eligible land on the commonages in question.

Grant Payments

Michael Creed

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in payment of a single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2817/11]

An application under 2010 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 17 May 2010. The 50% advance payment, which issued on 18 October 2010, was on the basis of the land cleared at that stage, as a number of parcels declared required digitising.

Balancing payments under the scheme, which commenced 1 December, would, in normal circumstances, be confined to those whose applications are fully processed, specifically, where all digitising is finalised. However, following recent consultation with the EU Commission, agreement was reached whereby, in addition to issuing balancing payments to those farmers whose applications are fully processed and whose maps are fully digitised, payments will also issue to those farmers where some or all of their maps are still to be digitised, with the payment being calculated on the basis of the digitised land confirmed otherwise eligible.

I am pleased to say that, because of this change, many farmers, including the person named, whose balancing payments would otherwise have been delayed until their digitising is complete, received an interim balancing payment on 1 December. The digitising in question will be completed in the coming days, which will allow the outstanding payment issue shortly thereafter, provided no errors are revealed by the digitising process.

Aquaculture Licences

Ulick Burke

Question:

176 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress, if any, that has been made towards the granting of aquaculture licences in the bays and estuaries around the country with particular reference to provision in Kinvara Bay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2824/11]

Kinvara Bay is a designated Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 site). In the case of aquaculture sites located within Natura 2000 areas my Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of these areas. This process is ongoing and significant progress has been made.

The comprehensive data collection programme together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives will enable all new and renewal applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Once the relevant data has been collected, conservation objectives for the site have to be established by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The establishment of these conservation objectives by NPWS will allow individual licence applications to be assessed against the conservation objectives.

The area in question remains part of the package of prioritised areas under assessment. This package is reviewed on a regular basis with a view to expediting the appropriate assessment process. My Department, working with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of aquaculture licence applications having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation.

Grant Payments

Billy Timmins

Question:

177 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 845 of 12 January 2011, the position regarding an area aid payment in respect of a person (details supplied); when this payment will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2836/11]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 12 May 2010. The 75% advance payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme which issued on 21 September, the 50% advance payment, which issued on 18 October and the further 30% payment, which issued on 1 December, under the Single Payment Scheme, were on the basis of those parcels cleared for payment at that stage, as a number of other land parcels listed on the application of the person named required re-digitisation. This process was completed, following which the final balancing payments under the Single Payment Scheme and Disadvantaged Areas Scheme issued to the person named on 13 December 2010.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

178 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive their area aid and REP scheme payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2839/11]

An application under the 2010 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 21 April 2010. A number of parcels listed on the application of the person named required re-digitisation. This application has is now processed and payment will issue shortly. Payment due under REPS will issue in the coming ten days.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

179 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive their REP scheme payment; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that farmers are being advised that as a result of staff shortages files are not being dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2843/11]

Payment will issue to the person named within 10 days.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

180 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their REP scheme payment. [2923/11]

The file is currently under examination following the re-digitisation of land parcels and my officials will be in contact with the person named when this examination is complete.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

181 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their REP scheme payment. [2925/11]

The application from the person named is currently under examination following a cross check with the 2009 Single Farm Payment application. My officials will be in contact with the person named when this examination is complete.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

182 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive the second instalment of their single payment. [2939/11]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 05 May 2010. Advance Single Farm Payment issued to the person named on 18th October 2010 on the clear eligible area, however one of the land parcels listed on the application required digitisation. This process is now complete and the balancing Single Farm payment issued on 21 December 2010 to the person named.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

183 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when disadvantage area payment will be made available in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2979/11]

An application under the 2010 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 10 May 2010. A number of parcels listed on the application of the person named required re-digitisation. This process is now complete and the application has been recently cleared and payment will issue in the coming days.

Consultancy Contracts

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

184 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide the details on the number of consultancy contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) since 2006 by each Government and State agency giving the title of each assignment, the duration of the contract and the financial consideration for each assignment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2983/11]

Since 2006 the company in question was awarded two consultancy contracts for my Department. The details required are as follows.

Year

Title of Assignment

Duration of Assignment

Payments

2006/2007

Report of the Independent Expert on Economic Analysis of Restructuring of Irish Sugar Industry

12 March 2006 to 23 February 2007

360,422

2010

Mid-Term Evaluation of the Rural Development Programme

19 May to 21 December 2010

110,902

The awarding of consultancy contracts by State Agencies under the remit of my Department is an operational matter for the agencies concerned.

Parliamentary Questions

Brian Hayes

Question:

185 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, further to Parliamentary Question No. 273 of 4 November 2010, when a response will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2814/11]

The information sought by Deputy Hayes was quite detailed and covered almost a 4-year period. Nonetheless, my Department has reported to me that it has almost concluded the collation exercise and I anticipate the information issuing to the Deputy in the coming days.

Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 84.

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his strategy to replace jobs lost throughout the economy in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2893/11]

The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. The National Recovery Plan, which was published by the Government on 24th November, provides a blueprint for Ireland's return to sustainable economic growth. It identifies the areas of activity, which will provide increased employment opportunities as Ireland's economic recovery takes place. The Plan sets out a range of specific actions and supports designed to improve competitiveness across all sectors of the economy. These include measures to cut costs to business, the removal of barriers to employment creation, and a range of sector-specific actions to increase exports and domestic demand.

In September, the Taoiseach launched the five-year integrated Government plan for trade, tourism and investment aimed at generating 300,000 jobs by the end of 2015. The new plan,“Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy”, is the first integrated strategy to promote overseas trade, tourism and investment. With this new strategy, the Government aims to position Ireland for strong export-led growth to 2015, resulting in high levels of job creation. The plan aims to create over 150,000 direct new jobs (IDA Ireland 75,000, Enterprise Ireland 60,000, tourism 15,000) in manufacturing, tourism and internationally trading services, with another 150,000 spin-off jobs.

The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving a return to economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and advancing the Smart Economy Agenda. The allocation in Budget 2011 of €508m in capital funding will ensure that the enterprise agencies' core programmes are sustained and targeted. This will include actions to position Ireland as a Global Innovation Hub.

The State Development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, and the County and City Enterprise Boards are continuing to drive and promote enterprise development, and consequently employment creation in our economy. IDA Ireland continues to market and promote Ireland for inward investment. Indeed, on 15 January, Intel, an IDA client company that already employs over 4,000 people in Ireland, announced that it is to begin a substantial new €375 million construction project at its Leixlip technology campus. This infrastructure project will create a further 850 construction jobs on the Leixlip campus. The company will also be creating 200 new high level jobs on the Leixlip campus as a result of this technology upgrade. The fact that Intel has chosen to further invest here is an enormous vote of confidence and endorsement of Ireland as a competitive location for global investment.

Enterprise Ireland is actively focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up new high potential start-up companies, and the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies. The County and City Enterprise Boards support the micro enterprise sector — businesses with 10 employees or fewer — in the start-up and expansion phases and promotes entrepreneurship at local level.

In addition to delivering programmes through the Enterprise Development agencies, my Department also works across Government to ensure that Ireland regains competitiveness, including cost competitiveness, thus improving the business environment and enabling companies to successfully compete internationally and grow jobs.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the action he has taken or proposes to take to comply with the joint objectives of EU Commissioners Barnier and Geoghegan-Quinn to enhance competitiveness and energise the manufacturing and service sectors in the European economy through innovation, technology and competition; the way this is most likely to manifest itself in this economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2894/11]

Europe 2020, the European Union's new strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, was finalised by the European Council in June 2010. A total of seven "Flagship" Initiatives which will underpin the strategy are at various stages of development by the European Commission. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn and Commissioner Tajani launched two Flagships Initiatives in the second half of 2010 — the "Innovation Union" and the "Industrial Policy for a Globalisation Era" respectively. Both of these initiatives are aimed at increasing productivity, boosting competitiveness and, ultimately, creating employment through innovation and by developing opportunities in emerging sectors.

The objectives of the two Flagship Initiatives are broadly consistent with the Government's strategy, Building Ireland's Smart Economy, and with the development of the Green Economy in Ireland. In that regard, I support the adoption in these Initiatives of a horizontal approach to industrial policy and innovation, coupled with the identification of key sectors for additional supports. My Department and the enterprise agencies will continue to develop the existing strengths of Irish-based companies and assist them in identifying and capturing opportunities which emerge from the European 2020 strategy in existing and emerging high-potential sectors.

In addition to the Flagship Initiatives launched by Commissioners Geoghegan-Quinn and Tajani, in October 2010 Commissioner Barnier published the Single Market Act which sets out proposals to strengthen the Single Market with measures to boost growth and enhance citizens' rights. The Act has been issued for public consultation, after which the Council and the European Parliament will be asked to formally endorse it during the course of 2011. A list of proposals for priority action in the short term is likely to emerge from this process.

My Department is coordinating the Government's response on the Single Market Act. The views of relevant Government Departments have been sought on the Act and a composite submission will be made to the European Commission at the end of February.

Departmental Mission Statements

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent if any to which his Department is motivated to achieve its mission statement having particular regard to the ongoing economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2896/11]

Since commencing my role as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, I have, together with my Ministers of State and officials in the Department, devoted considerable time and efforts to driving our mission which is centred on the promotion of policies and initiatives to create an enterprising, entrepreneurial, innovative and appropriately regulated, competitive economy in support of employment and job creation. In this regard, my main focus has been on:

growing employment and foreign earnings through enterprise and trade,

building the smart economy through investments in the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation,

better regulation of markets and enhanced consumer welfare, and

fostering good industrial relations, employment rights and occupational health and safety.

My Department and I, together with our colleagues in our Agencies, continue to work diligently at ensuring that the policies we are pursuing remain attuned to the needs of our stakeholders, and that we implement those policies effectively in support of our overall mission.

Despite the global economic recession, the actions we have taken are bearing fruit insofar as our improving competitiveness, increasing exports, and continuing job announcements attest, notwithstanding the continuing challenging global economic climate. On the exports front alone — a vital source of wealth and job creation for a small open economy like Ireland — the 11% increase in our trade surplus in the first nine months of last year compared to the same period in 2009 shows that our strategy is working.

I can assure the Deputy that I and my team at the Department, working closely with our colleagues in our Agencies, will continue to commit every effort to drive our mission in the period ahead.

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 84.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will outline, in order, the five most important issues affecting competitiveness in the manufacturing and service sectors in each of the past five years to date in 2011; the degree to which he plans to further address these issues with a view to enhancing the prospect for economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2898/11]

The Annual Competitiveness Report, which is published each year by the National Competitiveness Council, sets out the factors which the Council believes are important for Ireland's competitiveness. These factors generally affect all areas of the economy, including the manufacturing and services sectors. The factors affecting Ireland's competitiveness have changed considerably over the last five years due to the global economic downturn and domestic economic conditions.

For example, the 2006 Annual Competitiveness Report identified issues such as loss of momentum in the export sector, productivity growth and the high costs of living as factors impacting on Ireland's competitiveness. Due to the Government's actions as part of its response to the economic downturn, our exports are now performing strongly, Ireland currently has the highest level of growth in industrial output in the Eurozone, and the cost of living has been brought under control, as evidenced by the pattern in the Consumer Price Index since 2008.

Along with my colleagues in Government, I will address the emerging challenges impacting on our competitiveness on an on-going basis. This will be done as part of the Government's overall strategy for economic recovery. In this context, the National Development Plan 2011-2014, which was published on 24th November last, provides the blueprint for a return to sustainable economic growth and sets out a range of measures which will be taken to reduce costs for businesses and improve competitiveness.

Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 88.

Retail Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent if any to which the use of alcohol as a loss leader is being used to promote sales at retail outlets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2900/11]

The sale of alcohol is essentially regulated by the liquor licensing laws, which are the policy responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform and I have no direct function in this matter.

The use of sales promotions and pricing strategies in any business is a legitimate marketing tool and is the normal outcome of the competitive process. I have no direct function in relation to such practices which are a matter for the retailer and are not an offence unless they involve abuse of a dominant position. A determination on whether a retailer is abusing a dominant position in the marketplace would necessitate a comprehensive investigation by the Competition Authority. The Authority is the independent statutory body responsible for enforcing competition law in the State and complaints of any alleged anti-competitive practice should be referred to it.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent if any to which he has monitored the use of loss leaders to promote sales in a retail outlet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2901/11]

The use of sales promotions and pricing strategies in any business is a legitimate marketing tool and is the normal outcome of the competitive process. I have no direct function in relation to such practices which are a matter for the retailer and are not an offence unless they involve abuse of a dominant position. A determination on whether a retailer is abusing a dominant position in the marketplace would necessitate a comprehensive investigation by the Competition Authority. The Authority is the independent statutory body responsible for enforcing competition law in the State and complaints of any alleged anti-competitive practice should be referred to it.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent to which all major retail stores operating here are obliged to publish their profits in respect of operations in this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2902/11]

In respect of those retail stores that are organised as limited companies, the contents of the financial statements including the profits of those companies are governed by relevant Irish and EU Company Law and by the applicable accounting standards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent if any to which he has monitored the prices charged to consumers in various major retail outlets throughout this country with those charged at similar outlets in other jurisdictions; if his attention has been drawn to a particular difference in the margins paid to manufactures on producers by such outlets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2903/11]

I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed in relation to the differential in consumer prices between this country and certain other jurisdictions and particularly in the case of our nearest neighbour the United Kingdom. Whilst consumer prices in this jurisdiction had increased at a faster rate than a number of other jurisdictions in the EU, prices have fallen considerably in Ireland in the last 18 to 24 months. The latest EU Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices, which is accepted as the most appropriate measure for community wide price comparisons, published by the Central Statistics Office show that prices decreased in Ireland by 0.8% in the 12 months to October 2010, whereas prices throughout the rest of the EU increased by 2.3% in the same period. Insofar as the UK is concerned, the Index shows that prices rose by 3.2% in this period.

It is clear, therefore, that prices are falling more rapidly in Ireland than elsewhere in the EU. This overall narrowing of the differential in prices is most welcome, not least by consumers, and follows on from the specific measures taken by the Government to restore national competitiveness. The Government is fully committed to pursuing the competitiveness agenda, including in the area of prices so as to ensure that Irish consumers receive and can expect to receive a fair deal in the goods and services that they buy.

Employment Rights

Martin Ferris

Question:

197 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding claims made by employers to the Labour Relations Commission seeking to avoid paying agreed wage increases and to opt out of wage orders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2916/11]

I assume the Deputy's question relates to wage rates provided for in Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) made under the Joint Labour Committee (JLC) system. JLCs are statutory bodies established under the Industrial Relations Acts, 1946 to 2004 to provide machinery for the fixing of minimum rates of pay and the regulation of conditions of employment. JLCs are composed of representatives of employers and workers in a particular sector and they meet periodically to discuss and agree terms and conditions to apply to specified workers in that sector. The pay and conditions agreed by the JLCs are given the force of law in EROs made by the Labour Court on foot of proposals made to the Court by the JLCs.

There is currently no provision in the Industrial Relations Acts which allows an employer in a sector covered by an ERO to seek a derogation from the obligation to comply with the terms of an Order. Moreover, a proposal to amend or revoke an ERO may not be submitted by a JLC to the Labour Court unless the Order has been in force for at least six months.

However, I have already announced my intention to introduce an "inability to pay" provision for EROs. I intend to include such a provision in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2009 by means of an amendment at Committee stage in the Dáil. Such a provision would go some way to balancing the current demands of both trade unions and employers by continuing to modernise and streamline the JLC system, while also alleviating the pressures that employers in these sectors currently experience as a consequence of the absence of a mechanisms for processing claims for "inability to pay".

While it is intended that the inability to pay mechanism will be modelled on the provisions at Section 41 of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000, I believe that there is scope for improving both the flexibility and the safeguards that can be incorporated in such a provision. I am satisfied that an updated mechanism can be framed so as to take into account issues raised in the course of consultations with the social partners and during the debate in the Dáil on the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, especially as regards the dangers of unfair cost competition and the desirability of maintaining a level playing field for enterprises where wage costs are a major component of overall costs.

Business Regulation

Richard Bruton

Question:

198 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will indicate the circumstances in which bodies can be exempt from the requirement of an audit and his views on whether the necessity of having an audit is an unnecessary expense for some small businesses or organisations which are solely organised for social purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2959/11]

In general every company should appoint an auditor and have its annual accounts audited. However, certain private limited companies, which satisfy certain conditions, can be exempted from these requirements. To avail of the exemption, the directors of the company must form the opinion that in respect of both the financial year in question and the immediately preceding financial year, the company satisfies the following conditions:

(i) the company is a company to which the Companies (Amendment) Act 1986 applies,

(ii) the amount of the turnover of the company does not exceed €7.3 million,

(iii) the balance sheet total of the company does not exceed €3.65 million,

(iv) the average number of persons employed by the company does not exceed 50,

(v) the company is not a parent undertaking or a subsidiary undertaking, and

(vi) the company is not a licensed bank, an insurance undertaking or a financial services company of the kind referred to in the Second Schedule of the 1999 (No. 2) Act. A company is not entitled to the exemption in a financial year unless the company is up-to-date in the filing of its annual returns with the Companies Registration Office.

Companies organised for social purposes i.e. non-profit organisations, such as charities, residential management companies, sports clubs, trade associations and community or special interest groups are generally incorporated as companies limited by guarantee.

In 2009, the Company Law Review Group (CLRG) considered the case for extending the audit exemption to companies limited by guarantee. As outlined in its 2009 Annual Report the Group recommended that:

(i) Subject to consultation with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Charities Regulator the audit exemption regime contained in Part III of the 1999 (No. 2) Act should be extended to such class or classes of companies limited by guarantee which are charitable organisations (within the meaning of the Charities Act 2009) so as to bring them into alignment with charitable organisation that are not companies, provided that 10% of the members with voting rights should be able to require an audit.

(ii) The audit exemption regime be extended to all companies limited by guarantee which are not charitable organisations, subject to a veto right, (i.e. that any one member who has the right to vote at general meetings of the company may veto the proposal to avail of the exemption), and further subject to the requirement that audit exemption in respect of the following year, shall be an item on the agenda of the annual general meeting.

Subject to Government approval the recommendations of the CLRG in this matter will be taken into account in the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill currently being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Council.

Consultancy Contracts

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

199 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he will provide the details on the number of consultancy contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) since 2006 by each Government and State agency giving the title of each assignment, the duration of the contract and the financial consideration for each assignment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2982/11]

The following table sets out details of cost and purpose of the three contracts awarded to Indecon Economic Consultants by my Department since 1 January 2006 to date. Details of contracts entered into by Agencies under the remit of my Department are a day-to-day function for the Agency concerned.

For each of the three contracts concerned, Indecon Consultants were contracted to undertake a specific piece of work for my Department and the contract concluded once the Department was satisfied that the work undertaken had been performed satisfactorily.

Year

Purpose of Contract

Total

2010

N/A

Nil

2009

N/A

Nil

2007-2008

Prepare a Report — Value for Money Review of Science Foundation Ireland

185,408

2007

Economic Impact Assessment on the impact of health and safety legislation on competitiveness and the economy.

39,688

2006-2007

Study of Efficiency and Effectiveness of Vocational Training Services

50,886

Coláistí Samhraidh Gaeilge

Dinny McGinley

Question:

200 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Comhionannais agus Gaeltachta cad é an líon daltaí a rinne freastal ar chúrsaí Samhraidh Gaeltachta (Coláistí Samhraidh Gaeilge) gach bliain idir 2000 agus 2010. [2971/11]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

201 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Comhionannais agus Gaeltachta cad é an líon daltaí a rinne freastal ar chúrsaí Samhraidh Gaeltachta i nDún na Gall gach bliain ó 2000 go 2011. [2972/11]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 200 agus 201 le chéile.

Tá sonraí sa Tábla thíos den líon daltaí ar íocadh cúnamh ina leith faoi Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge agus a rinne freastal ar chúrsaí Gaeilge (i) sa Ghaeltacht agus (ii) i gCo Dhún na nGall gach bliain idir 2000 agus 2010.

Bliain

Líon daltaí sa Ghaeltacht

Líon daltaí i gCo Dhún na nGall

2000

23,108

6,642

2001

23,648

6,876

2002

24,411

6,917

2003

23,764

6,993

2004

23,490

7,106

2005

24,088

7,024

2006

25,313

7,603

2007

25,176

6,074

2008

27,001

6,413

2009

26,541

5,803

2010

24,278

5,141

Consultancy Contracts

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

202 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide the details on the number of consultancy contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) since 2006 by each Government and State agency giving the title of each assignment, the duration of the contract and the financial consideration for each assignment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2978/11]

I am advised that two consultancy contracts were awarded by State bodies/agencies funded from my Department's Vote Group to the company referred to by the Deputy. The contracts in question were awarded by Údarás na Gaeltachta and relevant details are outlined in the table below.

Purpose of contract

Year awarded

Duration of contract

Cost of contract

Gaeltacht Arts Audit (Ealaín na Gaeltachta)

2010

3 months

€23,520 plus VAT

Economic Impact Study of Údarás na Gaeltachta

2010

4 months

€46,500 plus VAT

Defence Forces Remuneration

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

203 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Defence when the pay increase for army cooks Tech 11 to Tech 111 will be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2950/11]

On the 27th September 2010 the Adjudicator under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force awarded an increase in technical pay to cooks. The award is backdated to 1 June 2006 and the Department of Defence estimates that the cost per annum of the award will be €266,412 with arrears of €1.1 million.

Current public pay policy of the Government is dictated by the statutory prohibition contained in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No.2) Act, 2009 which precludes increases to pay and allowances. Any claim, inclusive of adjudications, that has financial implications for the Exchequer cannot receive the sanction of the Minister for Finance under the terms of the 2009 Act. The legislation further provides that before 30 June 2011 the Minister for Finance shall carry out a review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the Act.