I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I welcome this opportunity to present the Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Bill 2013 to Dáil Éireann. The Bill was published on 23 December 2013. The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the decision to integrate the research and policy advisory functions of Forfás into the Department.
As part of the public service reform plan, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, undertook to review how the functions currently carried out by Forfás might be integrated with the resources of my Department in order to further enhance the formulation and implementation of national enterprise policy. Following consideration of the matter and engagement with the board of Forfás, the Minister decided, in May 2012, to proceed with the proposed integration. This move forms part of a broader reform programme which we have been progressing across the Department and its agencies, including the merger of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority; the reform of the five workplace relations bodies into two organisations; restructuring the enterprise support model for micro and small businesses, including the dissolution of the 35 CEBs and the creation of the new local enterprise offices; and restructuring transport and enterprise development bodies in the Shannon region.
The overarching objective of integrating Forfás into the Department is to strengthen our capacity to develop and implement enterprise policy. We envisage improved outcomes in enhancing the operating environment for enterprise and contributing to economic growth and job creation.
A key objective is to ensure the distinct strengths and experience of the Department's staff and those of Forfás are maximised to place the Department at the centre of driving economic recovery.
Since its establishment in 1994, Forfás has played a significant role in providing independent policy advice and research analysis to the Minister and Department and a key role in progressing the enterprise agenda and facilitating the development of our modern economy. In the past three years, the agency has become increasingly involved in the central policy making process in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, playing a leading role in the preparation of the annual Action Plan for Jobs. At this juncture, it is considered that combining the resources of Forfás and the Department represents the optimum use of scarce resources, particularly against a backdrop of significant reductions in staffing levels arising from the need to reduce the public sector pay bill.
Forfás was established in 1994 under the Industrial Development Act 1993 as an agency of the then Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Its core functions are to advise the Minister on matters relating to the development of industry; encourage the development of industry and technology; advise on the development and co-ordination of policies across the development agencies supporting enterprise; provide independent research in the areas of enterprise and science policy; evaluate enterprise policy interventions; and provide research and administrative support to a number of independent advisory groups, including the National Competitiveness Council, Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and Advisory Council for Science,Technology and Innovation.
Under the Industrial Development Act 1993 and related legislation, Forfás is statutorily the employer of staff in IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland as well as some staff in the National Standards Authority of Ireland. The agency also has responsibility for pensions of enterprise agency staff and employees of a number of former agencies, including the Industrial Development Authority, Eolas, the National Board for Science and Technology, the Irish Goods Council and An Bord Trachtálá. Forfás also carries out a range of shared services on behalf of the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and, in particular, Science Foundation Ireland, including the administration of pensions, property management and other central functions. The Irish National Accreditation Board operates as a committee of Forfás and is supported by Forfás staff.
It is proposed that the core policy advisory and research functions of Forfás will be incorporated into a new strategic policy division to be established within the Department. The new division will be tasked with a significant range of policy evaluation, co-ordination and planning activities on behalf of the Minister and for the Department's agencies. The key elements of the role of the new division will be in the areas of enterprise policy; competitiveness; horizon scanning; tax policy; the Action Plan for Jobs; trade and innovation policies; education, skills and labour market analysis; and key policy surveys and research. The staff of Forfás who are currently engaged in delivering these functions will transfer into the division within the Department together with relevant support staff from the agency.
The capacity to bring forward independent, evidence based, policy recommendations to Ministers and Government is an essential requirement for economic development. Since its establishment, Forfás has provided robust and independent analysis and advice which has greatly assisted the Department and others to formulate policy positions. The Department remains committed, through the new strategic policy division, to ensuring policy advice to Ministers is informed by a robust evidence base and through consultation with relevant stakeholders.
Forfás also provides research and administrative support to a number of independent advisory groups, including the National Competitiveness Council, NCC, and Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. As these bodies are an integral component of the overall enterprise agenda, the strategic policy division will continue to provide them with support and secretariat services.
The National Competitiveness Council reports to the Minister on key competitiveness issues facing the economy and offers recommendations on policy actions required to enhance our competitive position. The council is supported in its work by Forfás which monitors Ireland's competitiveness on an ongoing basis. The role of the National Competitiveness Council in the context of the Forfás integration has been carefully considered. The council's membership has been expanded to incorporate the industry partners appointed to assist with "disruptive reforms" under the Action Plan for Jobs and broaden the range of Departments attending National Competitiveness Council meetings in an advisory capacity. The Government has approved revised terms of reference for the NCC to give it greater flexibility to prepare and publish reports on issues it considers important, thereby copper-fastening its independence within the new organisational structure. The revised terms of reference also provide for a specific role for the council in respect of preparation of the competitiveness chapter of the Action Plan for Jobs.
The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs reports jointly to the Minister and Minister for Education and Skills. It will continue to prepare policy papers independently on skills needs and labour market issues which impact on Ireland's enterprise and employment growth and will be serviced by the strategic policy division.
The current membership of the Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation has been stood down, with effect from 25 September 2013, pending the finalisation of the Forfás integration process and overall policy on public service reform. This does not rule out the option of establishing an advisory council of a similar nature on an alternative footing if this is deemed appropriate at some stage in the future.
In addition, Forfás undertakes a number of surveys including the annual employment survey, which tracks employment in enterprise agency supported companies, and the annual survey of business impacts, which measures expenditure by agency supported companies in the economy. These surveys play an important role in helping to evaluate the performance of the enterprise agencies and will continue as part of the work of the strategic policy division.
Forfás inherited a range of functions and powers on its establishment, originating in the Industrial Research and Standards Act 1961, Industrial Development Act 1986 and Science and Technology Act 1987. The establishing legislation mandated Forfás to assign these powers to Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. These powers will now be vested directly in these agencies.
The Bill, in section 36, also makes an amendment to the IDA's existing functions. Section 8(d) of the Industrial Development Act 1993 makes provision for IDA Ireland to administer schemes requiring the disbursement exclusively of European Union funds. It is proposed to amend this section to give the IDA the same power as was provided to Enterprise Ireland by section 7(1) of the Industrial Development Act 1998, which allows Enterprise Ireland "to administer such schemes, grants and other financial facilities requiring the disbursement of European Union funds and such other funds as may from time to time be authorised by the Minister with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance". The provision in the 1993 Act is considered to be restrictive on the IDA and the amendment will allow the agency to administer schemes which include the disbursement of Exchequer funds, as may be authorised by the Minister with the concurrence of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Previously, the IDA was not in a position to administer schemes such as the employment subsidy scheme which was managed exclusively by Enterprise Ireland, even though the scheme was open to IDA client companies.
The non-policy functions which Forfás carries out on behalf of other agencies will be transferred into the Department or to other agencies under the remit of the Department, as appropriate, together with the relevant staff resources. The property management function of Forfás and associated staff transferred to IDA Ireland in July 2013.
The legislation provides for Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland to become employers in their own right and for each agency to establish a superannuation scheme for its employees.
Currently, Forfás is the legal employer of all staff working in Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland. These staff are seconded from Forfás to their respective agencies. This legislation provides for staff seconded from Forfás to become staff of their respective agencies. Forfás is also the legal employer of a number of staff working in the National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI, and this legislation provides for these staff to become staff of the NSAI. Employees of each of the agencies will become members of their agency's superannuation scheme, as appropriate. The legislation provides for responsibility for all existing pensioners, and those with deferred benefits for whom Forfás currently has responsibility, to transfer to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
The Irish National Accreditation Board, INAB, is the national body with responsibility for the accreditation of laboratories, certification bodies and inspection bodies. Accreditation is the procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. EU member states have established a network of national accreditation bodies to ensure the competence of all laboratories, inspection and certification bodies are assessed against the same principles. Accreditation plays an important role in guaranteeing the access of Irish products and services to EU and worldwide markets. The demand for accreditation has increased significantly in recent times as national regulators continue to rely on conformity assessment as a mechanism to support the implementation of legislation and assure competence. Responsibility for accreditation in Ireland is currently vested in Forfás. In practice, the accreditation function is delegated to the Irish National Accreditation Board, INAB, which is a committee of Forfás, supported by Forfás staff in the administration of its functions. The accreditation functions of Forfás will be transferred to the Health and Safety Authority with INAB to be established as a committee of the authority. This mirrors the current arrangements that apply to INAB within Forfás. The Bill provides for the transfer of the accreditation functions and associated staff of Forfás to the Health and Safety Authority by amendment of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
As outlined, the purpose of integrating Forfás into the Department is to strengthen the Department's capacity to develop and implement enterprise policy. The proposal is not driven by the objective of finding cost savings, although some savings may arise in due course if synergies between the two organisations are identified. It is not envisaged that any reduction in staff numbers will arise as a result of the integration. There may be some costs associated with, for example, the reconciliation of IT systems arising from these proposals. However, any such costs will be met from existing resources. Overall, the integration of Forfás into the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will facilitate improvements in the use and effectiveness of existing resources.
I will briefly outline the main provisions of the Bill. Section 1 sets out the Short Title and empowers the Minister to appoint, by ministerial order, the day on which sections of the Bill will commence. This Act, other than Part 7, will be included in the collective citation of Industrial Development Acts 1986 to 2013. Part 7 relates to the transfer of INAB and its accreditation functions to the Health and Safety Authority. The Bill provides that Part 7 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 to 2010 may be cited together as the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 to 2013.
Section 2 sets out a number of definitions relating to specific terms used in the body of the Bill. Section 3 provides that any expenses incurred in the administration of the Act shall be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas. Section 4 sets out the Acts or parts of Acts to be repealed on the enactment of this Bill. There are a number of other repeals relating to commencement orders in earlier Acts, which are included in Parts 2 to 5 of this Bill, under the provisions relating to staff of the various agencies.
Section 5 provides for Enterprise Ireland and subsidiaries of Enterprise Ireland to employ staff subject to the consent of the Minister and the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Section 6 provides for the transfer to Enterprise Ireland of staff currently seconded from Forfás on terms and conditions of service relating to remuneration which are no less favourable than those applying before the transfer. Section 7 provides for Enterprise Ireland to establish a superannuation scheme in respect of persons referred to in section 6, as appropriate.
Sections 8 to 10, inclusive, replicate the provisions of sections 5 to 7, inclusive, in respect of staff of IDA Ireland. Sections 11 to 13, inclusive, replicate the provisions of sections 5 to 7, inclusive, in respect of staff of Science Foundation Ireland. Section 14 provides for Forfás staff seconded to, or working under the direction of, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI, to transfer to the NSAI on terms and conditions of service relating to remuneration and superannuation, no less favourable than those applying before the transfer.
Section 14(1)(a) relates to staff of the Legal Metrology Service which operated within Forbairt until its dissolution in 1998. The Legal Metrology Service was transferred to the NSAI by section 50 of the Industrial Development (Enterprise Ireland) Act 1998, and its staff became members of the staff of Forfás, who were then seconded to the NSAI. Section 14(1)(b) refers to Forfás staff who were working in NSAI under the provisions of section 38 of the National Standards Authority or Ireland Act 1996, which provided for these staff to continue to be Forfás staff. The NSAI had previously operated as a division of Forfás prior to the establishment in 1996 of the standards authority.
Section 15 defines "relevant person", as used in various sections in relation to Forfás functions being transferred to other bodies. Section 16 provides for the dissolution of Forfás on a day to be appointed by the Minister. Section 17 provides that references in any enactment to Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland or SFI as an agency of Forfás shall be construed as a reference to Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland or SFI, as appropriate.
Section 18 provides for the transfer of functions currently vested in Forfás to Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, as appropriate in accordance with the Schedule to the Bill. Section 19 provides for the transfer of functions currently vested in Forfás, other than those referred to in sections 18 and 28, to be transferred to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Section 20 provides for any liability or loss arising out of the performance of the functions of Forfás before the dissolution day to rest with the relevant person as defined in section 15 - in effect, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland or the Minister - and not against the dissolved body, Forfás.
Section 21 provides that all property vested in Forfás immediately before the dissolution day will transfer to the Minister on that day. Section 22 provides that all rights and liabilities of Forfás will transfer to the Minister on the dissolution day. Section 23 provides that anything commenced but not completed before the dissolution day under the authority of Forfás in so far as it relates to a function transferred to a relevant person under this Act shall be carried on or completed by a relevant person. Subsection (3) provides that references to Forfás in the memorandum or articles of association of any company which relate to a function transferred to a relevant body under this Act shall be taken as a reference to the relevant body. Subsection (4) provides that any money, stocks, shares or securities transferred to the Minister that were held by Forfás before dissolution day shall be transferred into the name of the Minister.
Section 24 provides that the staff of Forfás, other than those who are transferring to become employees of Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, SFI, NSAI or the HSA, will be appointed to an unestablished position in the Civil Service on terms and conditions of service relating to remuneration and superannuation no less favourable than those applying before the transfer. These staff will subsequently be designated as established civil servants.
Section 25 provides that superannuation schemes administered by Forfás prior to dissolution shall continue in force as if made by the Minister. Section 26 provides for the preparation of final accounts for Forfás no later than one year after the dissolution date and for the preparation of a final annual report within six months of dissolution.
Part 7 relates to accreditation. The functions of accreditation are vested in Forfás and undertaken by the Irish National Accreditation Board, which currently operates as a committee of Forfás supported by dedicated Forfás staff. INAB accreditation functions and related staff will transfer from Forfás to the Health and Safety Authority. This requires amendments to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. Section 27 sets out several definitions relating to the accreditation function which are to be included in section 2 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. Section 28 inserts a new section 33A into the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, transferring the powers and functions of Forfás relating to accreditation to the Health and Safety Authority. Section 29 provides for the HSA to carry out accreditation in accordance with the powers and functions transferred by section 28 and in accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008 in so far as it relates to accreditation. Section 30 provides for transfer of relevant Forfás staff to the HSA, by inserting a new section 54A after section 54 of the 2005 Act, on terms and conditions of service relating to remuneration and superannuation no less favourable than those applying before the transfer. Section 31 provides for an amendment to Part 5 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 by adding a new Chapter 3 and adding several new sections 56A-56I.
Section 56A of the 2005 Act provides for the committee established by the board of Forfás, known as the Irish National Accreditation Board, to become a committee of the authority. It sets out operational procedures for the INAB. Section 56B provides for the transfer by Forfás to the HSA of any property related to the accreditation function. Section 56C provides for the transfer of rights and liabilities arising from the accreditation role to be transferred from Forfás to the HSA. Section 56D provides that any claim in respect of loss or injury suffered by any person arising out of the performance by Forfás of the accreditation functions before the enactment of this section shall lie against the HSA. Section 56E provides that anything commenced but not completed before the coming into operation of this section by or on behalf of Forfás in so far as it relates to a function transferred by section 29 shall be carried on or completed by the HSA.
Section 56E(2) provides that any money, stocks, shares or securities transferred by section 56B that are held by Forfás shall be transferred to the authority. Section 56F provides that records held by Forfás relating to the accreditation function will be transferred to the HSA on the coming into operation of this section. Section 56G provides for the HSA to establish an appeals board and related matters. Section 56H sets out the procedures relating to the making of an appeal against a decision of the accreditation board or the failure of the accreditation board to make a decision. Section 56I provides for disclosure of interests by members of the accreditation board.
Section 32 amends section 47 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and relates to the HSA setting fees for accreditation and entering into contracts for the purposes of accreditation functions. Section 33 amends section 73 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and relates to prohibition on disclosures by providing for inclusion of members of the accreditation board and the appeals board in that section.
Section 34 amends section 77 of the 2005 Act, which sets out a range of offences relating to various provisions under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. The purpose of the amendment is to exclude matters relating to accreditation from automatically being a prosecutable offence under section 77 of the 2005 Act. Where an offence might be committed relating to accreditation, it would be open to be pursued through normal legal channels. Section 35 inserts a new Schedule to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, providing for the Irish National Accreditation Board and associated procedural matters.
Part 8, section 36 amends section 8 of the Industrial Development Act 1993 to allow IDA Ireland to administer schemes and disburse such Exchequer funds as may be authorised by the Minister. The existing section 8(d) of the Industrial Development Act 1993 makes provision for IDA to administer schemes requiring the disbursement exclusively of EU funds and this amendment will give IDA the same powers as Enterprise Ireland and enable IDA to administer schemes such as the recent employment subsidy scheme, which was managed solely by Enterprise Ireland although the scheme was open to IDA client companies.
Section 9B of the 1993 Act, as inserted by the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) (Amendment) Act 2013, is to be repealed and replaced with a new section 9B relating to the supply of information to the Minister rather than to Forfás. Paragraph 8(2) of the First Schedule of the 1993 Act is substituted with a new paragraph 8(2), providing for committees established by IDA to supply IDA with information for the purposes of its functions rather than to Forfás.