Other Questions

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Mick Wallace

Question:

36. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the impact of the regulatory co-operation chapter of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in view of the concerns raised by a number of groups regarding the potential privileging of corporate interests in decision making that will affect public policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22538/16]

I raised issues concerning the TTIP many times with the Minister's predecessor but we are not getting much more satisfaction than we were at the start. My question relates to concerns that many people have about the potential privileging of corporate interests in decision making that will affect public policy. The potential absence of the precautionary principle is also very worrying, as exposed in the leak by Greenpeace recently.

I am aware that Deputy Wallace asked about the precautionary principle in another question that will be taken later.

The proposed EU-US free trade agreement is one of a number of new-style trade agreements that the EU is negotiating, covering not only covers tariffs, services and investment but also regulatory coherence and co-operation. Such an agreement would be the world’s largest bilateral trade and investment deal, and a successful conclusion is expected to benefit Ireland more than any other EU member state. Ireland’s enterprises are particularly well placed to take up opportunities to trade more easily with the US. An independent study commissioned by my Department and carried out by Copenhagen Economics in 2013 suggests that the benefits to Ireland will be proportionally greater than in the EU as a whole. These findings are backed up in a comprehensive independent report contracted by the European Commission, carried out by Ecorys and published on 13 May 2016. Ireland strongly supports the negotiations and is working to ensure that our interests are fully reflected in the texts of the negotiations.

Regulatory compatibility and co-operation is not about reducing standards or deregulation. Rather, it is about facilitating increased business and trade opportunities between Europe and America and will make the trading landscape easier and more predictable. That is particularly important for SMEs.

The report to which the Minister referred is based on an economic model that assumes nothing can go wrong and everything will go well. There is no real evidence whatsoever that Ireland will benefit from the TTIP. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan raised the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, with Canada, which seems to be an attempt to get a foot in the door before the TTIP is agreed. CETA includes an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, ISDS, which would allow corporations to bypass the normal court process, which is a privilege members of the public could not possibly get. If the agreements go through they will give corporations an incredible advantage in getting their way in any state in which they operate.

Is Question No. 36 grouped with other questions?

I do not think so, but Deputy Wallace is pulling questions together.

I am sorry, but my question refers to concerns about the potential privileging of corporate interests in decision making that will affect public policy. That is exactly what I am referring to.

Yes, I know, and then the Deputy mentioned CETA and also the precautionary principle. I am finding it hard, but I will do my best.

The Minister is doing very well.

I note the Deputy's concerns about the precautionary principle in the EU treaties. However, the treaties are foundation documents for all European decision making so TTIP negotiators must be cognisant of those in all negotiations. Any final agreement will be subject to scrutiny by every individual government across the European Union. Each of the 28 member states will be able to raise objections to any matters they consider might breach principles of the EU treaties such as the precautionary principle. Added to that, if the democratically elected Members of the European Parliament feel that any proposed agreement undermines that clause, they may fail to ratify it.

I am not throwing stones at the Minister. She is new in the job and I do not expect her to be-----

There will be no throwing stones here.

Only metaphorical ones.

When Greenpeace released the document in April there was a lot of denial about its contents. I went to the reading room in the Department and compared the released document with a similar document in the agreement. I was not allowed to bring anything out of the reading room but I was able to make comparisons. I discovered that the Greenpeace document was 100% accurate, which is even more worrying. The truth of the matter is that climate change, the environment, workers' rights and consumer protection will be undermined by the agreement. The Minister said we would be able to change the agreement by voting on it, but the Council of Ministers will make the decision and the agreement can be ratified even without each member state's Parliament voting for it. The agreement would automatically be introduced for three years and much damage would be done even if we chose to vote against it in this country. The situation is very worrying. I do not blame the Minister but we must take the issue much more seriously. We should be very concerned about what is coming down the tracks.

A total of eight persons have visited the reading room: three officials and five Deputies. The EU-US free trade negotiations are the most open and transparent trade negotiations to date. Reports relating to each round of discussions with all information on the EU position in the negotiations are published on the European Commission's website. Unlike the EU, the US does not publish its negotiating texts and the US has separate protocols for reading its documentation, effectively limiting access to Members of Congress. Special reading rooms have been created in capitals around Europe to allow equivalent access to European and national parliamentarians to review the consolidated EU-US versions of the negotiating texts. I have written to the Ceann Comhairle and I have invited Deputies to come and view the documents. Members are very welcome to do so. More need to come and see the documents, as Deputy Wallace has done.

Deputy Niall Collins has signalled that he wishes to ask a supplementary question.

On a point of order, could I just clarify something?

Last week when Other Questions were being taken there was a grouping of similar questions.

Yes. I asked the Minister if that were the case.

Is that being done in the case of this Department? It is very confusing for Members, as we do not know whether to come to the Chamber or not. I have tabled a question similar to the ones asked by Deputy Mick Wallace and Deputy Maurice Quinlivan.

I see that. It is No. 62. The questions have not been grouped. That is the basis on which I am proceeding.

On a point of order, if questions are grouped, is that communicated to Deputies in advance?

Do we find out on the day or how does it manifest?

I am told the Minister normally announces the grouping at the beginning of her first reply to a question. Today's questions were not grouped. I call Deputy Niall Collins to ask a further supplementary question on Question No. 36.

In relation to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership-----

I am sorry, but what question is the Deputy asking?

It is a supplementary question to No. 36. The Minister said she had written to the Ceann Comhairle and to all Deputies inviting them to take up her offer of a briefing from her Department and to visit the reading room. I did that and I found it interesting, to say the least.

Given the lack of public awareness about the exercise which is being undertaken and its potential, does the Minister not think that it would be a good idea to do a public awareness roadshow around the country and visit the regions? The Minister's Department divides up the country into various regions. If we look at the Action Plan for Jobs, which the Minister's predecessor launched and she is continuing, it is broken down by region. The Minister visits the various regions and focuses on and emphasises each one as she visits. Given the enormity of TTIP and the potential and consequences on both sides, as it is a big debate that is out there, we should all try to make a value judgment call on it. We need to have more public consultation. That requires visits to the regions as part of a public awareness consultation.

I say very strongly that the trade agreement is not finalised and is not near that at all. I take on board what the Deputy has said. I think it is important that Deputies know what is going on. I am really disappointed in the number of people, after receiving the invitation, who have come over to the Department to view what is in the reading room and go through the two and a half lever arch file documents. I am disappointed with that, though I take on board the Deputy's comments. As I said, the trade agreement is not finalised nor near to it.

Question No. 37 replied to with Written Answers.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

38. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to explain in detail the ratification process in relation to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22827/16]

My question is about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, between Canada and the EU. Will the Dáil have the opportunity to debate this hugely important trade agreement and will we have a vote on it? I believe this agreement has major implications for workers' rights. Labour standards are not on this agenda. It also has major implications for public services and perhaps most worryingly it proposes to give privileged rights to foreign investors and corporations to sue states. Under CETA, foreign investors will have more rights than any other group in this State. Foreign investors will also be able to bring claims against regulations in the public interest that impact their investments.

This is just the introduction, Deputy.

The question that was posed to me was to explain in detail the ratification process in relation to CETA and if I will make a statement on the matter. On 5 July 2016, the Commission published its proposals for signature, conclusion and provisional application of CETA, which are available on the EU Commission’s website. I ask that the public look at that website. Given the position taken by Ireland and other member states, I note that the Commission has now decided to submit CETA to the Council for decision as a mixed agreement. This means that the agreement contains provisions that fall under both EU and member state responsibility. It will be a matter for the Council and the European Parliament to decide on the signature and provisional application of CETA. Following a decision by the Council with the consent of the Parliament, it will be possible to provisionally apply CETA. Its full entering into force will be subject to the conclusion by the EU, through a Council decision with the consent of the Parliament and by all member states through the relevant national ratification procedures. This means that the Oireachtas will be part of the final decision to ratify the agreement. That means that we will vote on it here in the Chamber. The process will require that I, as Minister, move a motion in the Dáil to ratify the agreement and that there will be a vote.

The Minister says that the agreement will be provisionally applied. I did not quite hear the date the Minister suggested. That basically means that it will be fully implemented before we debate it here in the Chamber. The Minister also said the agreement will have huge implications for Ireland and that it will be provisionally applied. I think-----

I am really sorry but I cannot hear the Deputy.

I do not understand why the Minister cannot hear me.

I will give time if Deputy Quinlivan wishes to go over it again.

That is not a problem. I will go back to it. At the start of the Minister's contribution, she said that the agreement was provisionally applied. What I am saying is that means it is basically fully implemented. It is going to come back to the Dáil Chamber after it is fully implemented. Does the Minister agree that the agreement will have huge implications for Ireland? If it is provisionally applied already, what are we going to be debating?

What I said was that I note the Commission has now decided to submit CETA to the Council for decision as a mixed agreement. This means that the agreement contains provisions that fall under both the EU and member state responsibility. It will be a matter for the Council and the European Parliament to decide on the signature and provisional application of CETA. Following a decision by the Council, with the consent of the Parliament, it will be possible, as the Deputy says, to apply CETA provisionally. However, I also said that the process will require that I, as Minister, move a motion in the Dáil to ratify the agreement and that there will be a vote in Dáil Éireann.

But it will be provisionally applied before that.

Which basically means it will be implemented.

Skills Development

Bernard Durkan

Question:

39. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which she and her Department have identified any particular or specific skills requirements and or deficiencies which need to be addressed in order to maximise the filling of job opportunities in the manufacturing or service sectors while maintaining its attraction as an investment centre for indigenous and foreign direct investment; if it is expected that any such shortfalls can be met in order to facilitate and further enhance economic recovery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22775/16]

My question is an effort to identify the extent to which the skill sets throughout the workforce are adequate to meet the requirements of this era.

My Department works closely with the enterprises, development agencies and the Department of Education and Skills in addressing the skill needs. Since being appointed as Minister of State, I have placed a strong emphasis on ensuring that we have the talent and skills available to meet enterprise needs. I am working closely with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills. I am pleased that, under the auspices of the apprenticeship council, the first enrolments on the new apprenticeship programmes will commence in autumn of this year. The number of undergraduate ICT places will increase this autumn. I also recently launched the new web portal, Tech/Life Ireland, which is funded by my Department, to attract skilled professionals to this country.

In addition, the expert group on future skills needs, EGFSN, reports to me and to the Minister for Education and Skills regularly. The EGFSN plays a key role in advising the Government on the current and future skills needs of the economy. Recent EGFSN reports have anticipated future job opportunities arising from both expansion and replacement demand for a range of occupational roles. These include ICT, data analytics, manufacturing, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages. Future opportunities are also anticipated in international sales and marketing, project management, freight transport, distribution and logistics and the hospitality sector. I met the Irish Road Haulage Association over the last number of days.

Co-operation between employers and the education and training system is crucial in developing effective responses to skills needs and the regional skills fora will be important in that role.

By way of a supplementary question, I further inquire as to the extent to which the Department is in a position to identify the likely requirements of the future, having regard to the requirements of the marketplace at the present time and the movement in that area over the past couple of years. I also ask the Minister of State to give an indication to the House the extent to which he can put in place the necessary upskilling facilities to ensure that both the manufacturing and service sector needs are adequately met as time goes by. I ask whether or not it has been possible to identify possible sensitive areas that might need to be looked at further.

The Minister of State quoted the recent report by the expert group on future skills needs. I want to flag one particular aspect of that report, because I have received correspondence about a shortage of chefs. The Restaurants' Association of Ireland says there is a shortage of up to 5,000 chefs in this country, so the situation is coming to a critical juncture. When frequenting pubs and restaurants, we can see for ourselves that the vast majority of staff, particularly chefs and other kitchen staff, are non-Irish nationals. They have come to this country to fill a void. Has that problem appeared on the Minister of State's radar? The Restaurants' Association of Ireland has called for the re-establishment of CERT, the Council for Education, Recruitment and Training. CERT ran valuable courses and produced chefs and people with associated skills, of which there is currently a huge deficit.

I will deal first with Deputy Niall Collins's question. He is correct. A number of weeks ago I launched an initiative programme for chefs who have gone through a three or four-year apprenticeship in Tallaght. The indications are that over the next four, five or six years the hospitality sector will require 8,000 to 10,000 chefs. There is no doubt that this is an important issue. The hospitality sector provides some of the most important services in the economy. It employs approximately 158,000 people in 16,000 enterprises. I have asked Enterprise Ireland to prepare a report on how small and medium-sized businesses feel about economic growth in the next couple of years, including the exact number of chefs and other staff that will be required. They will report back to me hopefully by September.

If the ability is there to create so many jobs in that sector, which I believe there will be, we will not be founding wanting in that regard.

Can the Minister of State indicate the extent to which the apprenticeship scheme can address, in full or in part, the likely staff shortages in both the manufacturing and service sectors?

Having spoken to associated businesses, I know that at one stage we had 50,000 people in apprenticeship schemes. Basic apprenticeship schemes for carpenters, plasterers and bricklayers completely diminished over five or six years, down to about 4,000 or 5,000. In September, we will be launching 25 new apprenticeship schemes, many of which will be in the sectors the Deputy mentioned. I have written to employers' groups asking them to indicate whether employers are in a position to take on apprentices in those areas, which have the capacity to create a substantial number of jobs. As the economy progresses there will be more building projects, so it would be unacceptable if we could not have basic apprenticeship schemes for electricians, carpenters and bricklayers. In September, we will have 25 apprenticeship schemes which include many of the jobs referred to by the Deputy.

I thank the Minister of State.

UK Referendum on EU Membership

James Lawless

Question:

40. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the recent suggestion from the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, ISME, that the Government establish a dedicated unit within her Department to co-ordinate activities to counter the impact of Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22772/16]

I agree with the recent suggestion from ISME that the Government establish a dedicated unit within the Department to co-ordinate activities related to the challenges and opportunities arising from the Brexit decision. Has the Minister considered that or taken steps in that direction?

I thank Deputy Lawless for raising this matter. A central co-ordination unit in regard to Brexit has been established in the Department of the Taoiseach. In regard to my own Department, given the breadth and diversity of policy and operational areas that are relevant to the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, this is a matter that has an impact on, and is being monitored by, all the divisions across my Department.

Since the announcement of the UK referendum result on 24 June, as part of my contingency plans, I have established a co-ordination group within my Department consisting of relevant enterprise, Single Market and trade officials, together with the chief executive officers of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, to oversee the management of our immediate response, including messaging to businesses both at home and overseas. I chair this group and will continue to do so as part of my Department’s ongoing response as developments unfold at EU level and bilaterally with the UK. In addition, the EU affairs unit of my Department exercises a dedicated overall co-ordination role across all the relevant policy areas, and represents my Department in the work that is being undertaken at cross-government level, led by the Department of the Taoiseach, in response to the outcome of the referendum. This facilitates the framework for my Department’s interaction with other Departments in this regard.

The North-South unit of my Department, which co-funds and provides strategic oversight for InterTrade Ireland, the North-South enterprise development body, is actively working with that body to ensure that it will review and adjust its supports if necessary as new trading rules and regulations emerge. I have met with representatives of InterTrade Ireland.

The management board of my Department, chaired by the Secretary General, meets weekly and co-ordinates the Department's own response across all its divisions to the referendum outcome. As I have previously indicated, a team of senior officials from my Department visited London on 1 July to discuss Single Market and trade issues in light of the referendum outcome.

If I understood the Minister's reply correctly, there is a task force within the Taoiseach's Department as well as one in the Minister's own Department.

Okay. I welcome the concentration of resources and effort on this matter. However, I must flag the necessity for collaboration and co-operation within various Departments on this matter. The Brexit decision has many facets, including the North-South and east-west dimensions, as well as international relations and the EU negotiations themselves. The particular focus of my question, however, is on the risk to jobs and industry, as well as other economic factors which come within the remit of the Minister's Department.

Brexit is here and it is real, so we will have to deal with the consequences. It is worth recalling some of the figures involved. Some 400,000 jobs depend on trade between Ireland and the UK. For small Irish businesses seeking to expand, the UK is usually the first target market, as it is for 43% of our exports. The UK is our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner. The consequences of Brexit, while worrying, must be dealt with now that they are here.

I agree with ISME's call for a dedicated unit within the Department to co-ordinate activities related to the challenges and opportunities arising from the Brexit decision. Many other bodies have also called for a co-ordination of such activities.

I was concerned by a reply to a parliamentary question tabled by my colleague, Deputy Niall Collins-----

Tá an t-am thart. Gabh mo leithscéal, ach táimid faoi bhrú maidir leis an-----

Dhá nóiméad.

Dhá nóiméad.

Thirty seconds.

Tabharfaidh mé cúpla soicind don Teachta.

There are challenges but there are also opportunities, including in terms of attracting foreign direct investment here. In seeking to attract foreign direct investment, we must be cognisant of the challenges faced by our citizens in terms of the lack of available housing and school places and the lack of an integrated public transport system within the city and elsewhere, which are quality of life and cost of life issues. We will be competing against other countries targeting the same business and so it is essential if we are to remain attractive to the market that we tackle the challenges faced by our own citizens and potential new citizens who may wish to migrate here.

Tá mé ag brath ar an gclog. Is é sin an fáth gur bhris mé isteach ar an Teachta. Níl a fhios agam an raibh botún déanta. Gabh mo leithscéal arís.

We are very cognisant of the issues for people in this country. With regard to Brexit, I am happy that my Department's co-ordination group is strong. I wrote to every Deputy in early July pointing out what we have done and are continuing to do as a result of the British referendum result.

In regard to ISME, I have met with ISME, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the Irish Farmers' Association, IBEC, the Small Firms Association and the Irish Exporters Association. We are trying to manage our way. There is uncertainty but my Department is working closely with the Department of the Taoiseach to ensure we get the best deal for Ireland.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

41. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the specific plans she has to assist struggling small businesses, particularly in towns that have felt the adverse effects of the proliferation of large multinational retail chains; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22777/16]

The Minister, who represents the constituency of Dún Laoghaire, will be acutely aware of the pressure on small and medium enterprises in Dún Laoghaire town and the huge number of businesses that have closed, leaving many shops vacant, which is a picture that is probably repeated in many towns around the country. While there are many factors involved, the most significant is the impact of large multinational retail chains on small business.

Has the Government considered the introduction of a progressive rates system which essentially gives a break to small and medium enterprise and gives them a leg up in terms of the competition they face from large multinational companies? This is commonplace in places like France, Scotland and elsewhere.

As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, I am committed to increasing sustainable employment and supporting businesses across all sectors of the economy and in every town and village in the country. A key priority of this Government is to improve the living and working environment of local communities and to increase their potential to support increased economic activity into the future.

My Department provides many supports to assist small businesses to start and grow. The 31 local enterprise offices offer financial and soft supports in the form of training and mentoring to small and microenterprises across the country.

The implementation of the eight regional action plans will greatly benefit local economies, facilitating the development of local businesses and thus encouraging occupancy in work space and commercial properties in towns across the country.

Through the work of the retail consultation forum, which I chair, I support the work of the town centre revival working group. This group, the membership of which includes retail representative bodies and public sector bodies, is working towards the preparation of a framework for town centre revival. The framework will encourage collaboration between key stakeholders to implement initiatives to create and support vibrant town centres.

However, responsibility for planning rests with my colleague, the Minister for housing, planning and local government. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, has responsibility for the retail planning guidelines which duly recognise that vibrant and viable town centres are the lifeblood of the local community and local economy. The guidelines set out the key policy objectives which should guide planning authorities in addressing retail development within their development planning role.

I come from a small village in County Galway where many of the shops that had been there for up to 70 years are now closed.

There are many facets to the difficulties that small enterprise in towns and villages face, including parking charges, planning issues and the impact of recession in terms of cuts to people's income and so on. A significant factor in this regard is the impact of large multinational retail chains. These chains are draining people away from the small retail businesses in towns and villages.

I am proposing - as I did by way of motion to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which was passed unanimously - that, as is done in many other European countries, we introduce a progressive rates system such that the small butcher, baker and candlestick maker pays a lower rate than the multinational chains, thereby giving small business a break. That is not a radical left proposal: it is just a practical proposal that should be taken up nationally. To me, it is crazy that a bank-----

Gabh mo leithscéal, a Theachta, ach tá an t-am thart. Tá an Teachta Niall Collins ag iarraidh cúpla focal a rá. Beidh an Teachta Boyd Barrett in ann teacht isteach arís.

In regard to issue of commercial rates as referred to by Deputy Boyd Barrett, there are three Deputies in the Chamber, Deputies Quinlivan, Neville and I, who were members of the Limerick local authority which brought in an incentivised scheme to try to mitigate the rates burden on new businesses. My own personal view is that that only tinkered around the edges of the issue.

I refer the Minister to the preliminary census figures released in the last number of days. One of the most striking statistics is that there are almost 200,000 vacant dwelling units around the country. In Limerick, there are 8,500 vacant dwelling units, many of which are accommodation units above shops in our towns and villages. The core has been hollowed out of our small towns and villages consistently over the last number of years. What I am trying to impress on the Minister is the need for a bigger plan such that we are not just tinkering around with the commercial rates issue.

Deputy Collins, I am trying to allow in as many Deputies as possible.

When will the town centre revitalisation group report and is it likely to provide bigger ideas in relation to commercial rates?

I have to enforce the time limits because there are Deputies waiting to get in.

I hear what Deputy Boyd Barrett is saying about the progressive rates system, which was reiterated by Deputy Niall Collins. I am glad there are so many Limerick Deputies in the Chamber today.

Given the proliferation of large multinational retail chains, we are working on a town centre revival framework, including an action plan for the town centre revival. The action plan for towns is tasked with establishing town teams to carry out health checks, prepare town strategies and to identify and signpost supports that retailers can avail of. The primary concern of this group is to assist struggling towns by increasing footfall and the vibrancy of the town centres. As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, I cannot support either retail or the local authorities directly.

However, I am working with the Minister for regional development, rural affairs, arts and the Gaeltacht to ensure the work of this group is aligned with the aims of her Department's town and village regeneration fund. I will also be working with the Minister for housing, planning and local government in terms of his responsibility for overseeing the local authorities to communicate the recommendations of this working group and to ensure that the work of the group is complementary.

The rate can be set by the local authority but the system of rates is set nationally so this is the responsibility of the Government. I am asking for a change in the way we administer rates. In Scotland, rates were changed to give preferential rates to smaller businesses. A total of 60% or 70% of small businesses benefitted and got reduced rates as a result and it has helped reinvigorate small towns. This is a fairly standard policy in France, which is why its town and village centres sustain themselves far better than many of our town and village centres. I suggest that as part of this framework for supporting small and medium enterprises in towns, the Minister must think about a new rates system that distinguishes between a bank that might have the same square meterage but has massive profitability and turnover and a small flower shop or shoe shop. The Minister gets my point.

I know the Deputy is aware that the Commissioner of Valuation carried out a review of valuations in our county just recently. The Deputy mentioned Dún Laoghaire. The council has a shop front improvement scheme whereby it pays 50% of the shop front refurbishments costs up to €3,000. In our county, the vacant commercial premises incentive scheme involves the council refunding rates for businesses in premises that have been vacant for over six months. It gives 75% for the first year, 50% for the second year and 25% for the third year. Business priming funding is available for micro-enterprise within the first 18 months of the start up. There are businesses other than shops in Dún Laoghaire or any other town. They include financial businesses. I ask the Deputies to ask them to visit their local enterprise office and if they are under pressure, to look at Microfinance Ireland.

Job Creation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

42. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to promote employment in Dublin Bay North and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22545/16]

This question is really about the record of the former Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton. Although Dublin Bay North is close to major infrastructural centres such as Dublin Airport and Dublin Port, its unemployment rates remain quite high. The live register for Coolock for last month showed that 3,668 people were signing on, of which just under 600 were young people under the age of 25. The live register for Kilbarrack showed that 3,712 people were signing on last month, of which 348 were under 25. What steps did the former Minister take, particularly in respect of his own constituency, to boost jobs?

The aim of the Government is to ensure that every region can achieve its economic potential and that the benefits of the recovery are felt in every region, county and community in the country. Significant progress has been made in the Dublin region. Since the national action plan for jobs was launched in 2012, more than 70,000 additional people are back at work in Dublin. This compares with job losses of 90,000 in the period from 2008 to 2011.

The process of rebuilding the capacity of all the regions was started with the roll out of eight regional action plans for jobs during the past year. The action plan for the Dublin region was launched last January. The plan aims to increase employment in the Dublin region by between 10% and 15% over the period to 2020, resulting in the delivery of 66,000 additional jobs to the region in that period. Key sectors targeted as part of the plan include areas like technology, financial services, life sciences, manufacturing, tourism, retail, "smart cities" and the creative industries.

The plan will be monitored and driven by an implementation committee comprising representatives from the enterprise sector, the local authorities, enterprise agencies and other public bodies in the region. Collaboration between the private and the public sector has been a core element in the plan's development and will be central to its delivery.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

By supporting SMEs, continuing to attract foreign direct investment and providing assistance to start-ups to grow and develop, we will see our recovery take hold which will result in improved standards of living for the people of Dublin.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. As he is aware, we are talking about a region with a population of 150,000 or so. The Minister of State will appreciate that the unemployment figures I read out are very high. Could he look at some of our more traditional industries? The Cadbury Mondelez plant in Coolock was threatened with a series of job losses. I raised this issue on numerous occasions with the former Minister in the previous Dáil. The last update I received from the Department about the plant was in March 2016. I was told that Enterprise Ireland was in contact with the company. What has happened on foot of that? Cadbury's was taken over firstly by Kraft and then by Mondelez, which is a Brazilian company. What is happening in this case of this plant?

There are many logistics and transport companies in Dublin Bay North. I heard the Minister say earlier that she is taking particular steps concerning Brexit. Has the area of logistics and transport been looked at given that we will be dealing with a different regime? I heard Deputy Durkan speak earlier about apprenticeships and third-level education.

I am not too familiar with the latest updates regarding the Cadbury plant but I will get it for the Deputy within a week and revert to him. The implementation committee is a collaboration between enterprise and public service groups and is led by Caroline Keeling, chief executive of Keelings, with Ronan Harris from Google is vice chairman. The Deputy is very well-known in the area. There is no point in me dishing out ten pages of statistics relating to the particular area. If the Deputy feels there are groupings of people the Department should meet to see how the region is affected, there is no problem with him bringing in interested bodies to meet the Department in August or September. The Minister and I would be delighted to meet the Deputy and any groups in that area to discuss the action plan for jobs, its implementation and how the area can benefit over the next couple of years.

Corporation Tax

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

43. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation whether the Government's decision to oppose the European Union proposal to introduce public country-by-country reporting for large multinational companies was purely on the grounds of subsidiarity; if so, if the Government now proposes to introduce these measures itself at a national level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17502/16]

A few weeks ago, the Government opposed an EU proposal to introduce public country-by- country reporting of corporation tax for large multinational companies on the spurious grounds of subsidiarity. Are we going to bring in public country-by-country reporting ourselves?

Last April, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive to introduce public country-by-country reporting of corporation tax by large multinational enterprises.

Since then, my Department has been considering the detail of the proposal and consulting with stakeholders. The Department also ran an open consultation in the course of last May. The task of assessing the proposal is continuing and, at EU level, the negotiations have begun. Although they are at an early stage, it is clear that the proposal raises a number of practical, legal and technical issues. These will need to be addressed over the coming months. Until we know the scope and content of any final EU measure, it is too soon to consider national measures on this type of public reporting. However, Ireland is already to the fore in introducing similar reporting obligations for large multinational companies. Under the Finance Act 2015, certain Irish-resident parent companies and subsidiaries of non-Irish companies must file a country-by-country report on tax with the Revenue Commissioners each year. The first of these reports are due to be submitted to the Revenue by the end of next year. Several countries, including the US and all EU member countries, have committed to introducing this form of country-by-country reporting and to sharing the information among their tax authorities.

The Minister may have heard this week that we are already paying a big price because of aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations. We will have to pay an extra €280 million to the EU this year because of the artificial inflation of the growth figures. Already, even before that, our contribution to the EU is grossly inflated and distorted because it is, in proportion to population, double that of countries such as Portugal and others due to the tax avoidance strategies of multinationals based in this country. It is in our interests to have public country-by-country reporting of the big multinational companies to stop them engaging in aggressive tax avoidance. Yet, incredibly, when offered the opportunity to do that by the European Union, we used the spurious excuse of subsidiarity to reject that proposal. What the Minister seems to be saying is that we cannot do it on our own. I agree with that, but why the hell did we not sign up to a pan-European proposal to do it, instead saying that we could not sign up to it because it infringes our sovereignty? It does not make any sense.

I reject tax avoidance. We cannot do it on our own. If we were to publish the figures the Deputy is referring to, it would allow some companies to gain a possible commercial advantage over others because matters would be deemed to be commercially sensitive. Other jurisdictions might not share the information with us if they knew we were going to publish the reports. It would not help the tax transparency agenda and a system of country-by-country reporting. I cannot do it.

I thank the Minister. That brings Question Time to a close, and we are moving-----

There are 21 seconds remaining.

We are moving on. I asked for the Deputy's co-operation. I have three different clocks here. I am going to move on to Topical Issues.

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