Priority Questions

Jobs Protection

Niall Collins

Question:

1. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on whether there are sufficient supports in place to safeguard Irish jobs and exports following the recent Brexit referendum; if she will immediately review Enterprise 2025; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39274/16]

I would like to ask the Minister her views on whether there are sufficient supports in place to safeguard Irish jobs and exports following the recent British referendum. Will she immediately review the Enterprise 2025 policy?

My Department and the agencies under its remit provide supports at a policy and operational level to safeguard Irish jobs and exports, including in the context of Brexit. These include: the development of the annual action plan for jobs and regional action plans; contributing to EU policy development advocating for further strengthening of the Single Market, with access to 450 million customers, and bilateral trade agreements between the EU and third countries giving us global reach for our exports; continuing to focus on competitiveness through the National Competitiveness Council, which will include a focus on Brexit in its forthcoming challenge report; and on the ground supports by Enterprise Ireland and local enterprise offices, LEOs, to help Irish companies to start, scale and export.

Enterprise Ireland is working with companies to increase exports to the UK and to diversify into other markets focusing on improving company competitiveness and capability. IDA Ireland is actively pursuing opportunities for mobile investment and has just launched a new global marketing campaign, Ireland Right Place Right Time, with additional funding provided by my Department. There is a 10% increase in the capital budget for my Department for 2017 which will help to ensure that the agencies are well-positioned to deal with the challenges that Brexit presents for their clients.

Enterprise 2025 sets a roadmap for longer-term enterprise development. While it remains relevant in terms of its focus on the resilience of the enterprise base, I have asked my officials to review its progress and identify additional actions or changes necessary in light of more recent global challenges, including Brexit.

I, along with the Minister and other Members of the House, attended the all-Ireland civic dialogue on Brexit that was held recently. The Minister will also be aware that the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has met 15 groups across five sessions over three meetings. The people who attended those Oireachtas committee meetings were the same as those who attended at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, namely, delegates from Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, cross-Border bodies, ICTU and business representative groups, and they are all saying the same thing. They point to the uncertainty and to the need for market diversification to try to safeguard against the impact of many businesses moving to a sterling cost based area in the new year. With that in mind, did the Department consider the establishment of an export fund to support companies selling into the UK that are seeking to diversify?

The additional staffing complement being afforded to Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland has previously been mentioned in this House, but I am told that this has not yet made its way through the system of officialdom. The organisations do not know what headcount they will have. Will the Minister shed some light on the situation?

Deputy Collins is correct. Market diversification is hugely important. I assure him that Enterprise Ireland is working with indigenous companies to ensure they have advice on diversification. Things such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, are important. We will ensure that we exploit whatever trades we can. This is one of the reasons we currently have trade missions all around the world.

The Deputy also asked about staffing for Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. The Deputy knows an additional €3 million for current expenditure has been granted. This has been brought to Government and we will work our way through it. The chief executives, Julie Sinnamon and Martin Shanahan, both know that they will be getting a good tranche of this money to ensure they can employ extra staff.

Will the Minister comment on the 2020 regional jobs targets? She has specified a target of 135,000 new jobs outside the greater Dublin area. How does she intend to achieve the target given the onset of Brexit and the unpreparedness that seems to be everywhere? We did not have a Brexit-proofed budget and we do not have a fund to Brexit-proof our companies. Nor do we have a national hedging policy. Additional staff is being given to Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, but those numbers still have not come through. We are so much in the hands of others and the Government seems to be rudderless. That is what the representative groups are telling us. How will we protect what we have and how will we reach our targets in the meantime? In particular, how will we achieve the 135,000 new jobs outside Dublin? Many of the agencies have told us that the job losses that will initially follow Brexit will be those that are labour intensive, in the manufacturing sector and rural based. There will be no complement of jobs provided in those regions or sectors, although there may be a complement of jobs provided in the financial services and high tech sectors later.

We have detailed a good and targeted response in the Action Plan for Jobs and particularly in the regional action plans for jobs. There are eight regions and I have met with representatives of seven of them. We have gone through the implementation of those plans. They are on target and some of them are ahead of target. Four of them are doing really well and four are average. However, we must work our way through it. I pay tribute to those who are working on these regional action plans. They live and breathe the plans. It is really good that there is a co-ordinated response for the regions. We will deliver 135,000 jobs outside the Dublin area. This year even, 72% of the new jobs announced have been outside the greater Dublin area.

National Planning Framework

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

2. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if, in view of the fact that her Department is represented on the national planning framework, NPF, steering committee and participates in discussions at the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, Environment and Climate Action, and that she also participates on the econometric and demographics working group, she will provide a detailed report on the issues she has raised and an update on the progress made; her Department’s plans in terms of the NPF; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39276/16]

I raised this issue with the Minister previously in the context of Brexit and the regional action plans for jobs and I am still concerned about the apparent lack of co-ordinated thinking from the Minister or her officials on the importance of national spatial planning to job creation, economic development-----

Will the Deputy stand a little closer to the microphone?

Perhaps he could speak a little louder.

The Minister cannot hear the Deputy.

I will start again. I raised this issue with the Minister before in the context of Brexit and the eight regional action plans and I am still concerned about the apparent lack of co-ordinated thinking from the Minister or her officials on the importance of a national spatial strategy to job creation, economic development and to the efforts to foster enterprise and attract investment. Brexit is a game-changer that has undoubtedly made the need for a national development strategy all the more pressing and urgent. I am concerned that the Minister does not appear to be on top of the issue or to realise how significant it is. Just last week, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced she intends to trigger the start of Britain's exist from the European Union by the end of March of next year. Will the Minister comment?

The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government is currently preparing the National Planning Framework, NPF, which is a 20 year strategy for the spatial development of Ireland. My Department, at official level, is a member of the interdepartmental national planning framework steering committee and the NPF’s econometric and demographics working group. The NPF has also been the subject of discussions at the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, Environment and Climate Action, of which I am a member.

My Department is contributing to the development of the NPF, based on Enterprise 2025, regarding a number of aspects.

We have raised a number of issues, including the strong interdependence between the planning and the creation of an attractive environment and enterprise development; the need for a robust, evidence-based NPF to ensure that Ireland’s growth ambitions are achieved; that enterprises and entrepreneurship play a central role in job creation in the regions; the need to identify and address the different advantages and development potential of each region whether in, for example, services, manufacturing or agrifood sectors; and the importance of prioritising infrastructure investment to support economic development and to address gaps in required combinations of roads, water, energy and broadband and skills to boost growth.

In terms of progress, the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government has indicated that it will take on board the submissions made by this Department as the NPF is progressed.

I understand that an emerging draft NPF will be prepared by early 2017 and that the framework will be submitted to the Oireachtas for approval in due course.

I thank the Minister for her response. I wish to stress the importance of Brexit for the country. I reiterate that the British Prime Minister announced that she will trigger Brexit in March of next year, which is not that far away. She is talking about a red, white and blue Brexit, but everyone, whether it is reports I have read or people I have spoken to, speaks about a black Brexit. That is what this will mean for Ireland. There will no winners in Ireland. There is the potential for a number of small opportunities that we must seize, but we will not seize them if we do not invest in critical infrastructure. I do not believe the Minister is doing enough to fight for these infrastructure projects or to ensure that we make the best of any opportunity that presents itself.

Last month I stressed that we got an extra €50 million in the budget, so we now have €550 million for capital expenditure. We also got an extra €3 million for current expenditure. I assure the Deputy that I am fighting good and hard to ensure that we have a really good response to Brexit. I have mentioned the enterprise agencies already.

Enterprise Ireland has engaged with all of its 1,400 companies. It has identified which of them are weak and tried to ensure solutions are available to them. For example, it helps companies to diversify and find new markets abroad and has beefed up its trade missions. In addition to this work, IDA Ireland, the local enterprise offices and InterTradeIreland are also doing work in this area. We are fully engaged with the task of ensuring Irish companies secure the best deal. Some of them will find this difficult and many will face challenges but there will be pluses for others. We will try to attract more companies to locate in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland is helping indigenous companies.

I will meet officials from Enterprise Ireland later this afternoon. I reiterate that Brexit will be triggered in three months and the Department must be proactive and take an all-Ireland approach to the issue of regional development in the context of the national spatial strategy. We urgently need investment, infrastructure and capital projects if we are to achieve any semblance of balanced and sustainable regional development. If we are to create jobs, an integrated approach must be taken, one which deals with housing, infrastructure, public services and economic growth in a holistic manner.

I do not recall the Minister ever speaking about youth unemployment, the skills deficit or the need for a national training and apprenticeship scheme. We should consider Brexit as an opportunity to prioritise the growth of indigenous companies and a chance to finally address the issues of uneven development and regional inequality in all their manifestations. For this reason, I ask the Minister to report back on the progress of the regional action plans, on which she undertook previously to provide a report. I also ask her to keep the House updated on the Department's input to the national spatial strategy.

We will publish the 2016 report on the Action Plan for Jobs and regional action plans for jobs. As I indicated, I have travelled around the country and we are hearing good news in respect of the Action Plan for Jobs. The Deputy referred to skills and indicated he had never heard me speak about them. Having often visited Limerick, I believe he will have heard me speak about skills because the issue features prominently in every speech I make.

When we visited China, Japan and the United States I was continually reminded of the importance of skills. I hear the same message on my visits to indigenous companies, including the company I visited today in Cherrywood.

The Department is working with the institutes of technology, universities and skills forum, all of which are represented on the implementation groups for the Action Plan for Jobs. Their voices are being heard. As a former school principal, I assure the Deputy that I know how important education will be in ensuring our children are ready to take up the new jobs coming down the track.

Economic Competitiveness

Niall Collins

Question:

3. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken to reverse the continual fall in Irish business competitiveness levels and making Ireland an attractive location for businesses, particularly Ireland’s competitiveness standing with the UK. [39275/16]

What steps are being taken to reverse the continual fall in business competitiveness levels and make Ireland an attractive location for businesses, particularly in light of Brexit?

Ireland’s competitiveness performance has been central to the recovery in employment. Since 2011, Ireland's competitiveness as measured by a range of international indices has improved. Ireland moved from 16th to seventh in 2016 in the IMD’s world competitiveness yearbook, which benchmarks the general environment for business. We moved from 24th to 23rd in the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness report, which benchmarks the factors driving productivity and prosperity in economies. In addition, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2017 report, which looks at regulations impacting on small and medium enterprises, shows Ireland is now ranked 18th out of 190 countries.

As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, my focus is on improving Ireland’s competitiveness performance. Brexit means we must do more across a wide range of policy areas. We must consolidate Ireland's traditional strengths and address those areas where we lag behind the UK. We are stepping up investment in infrastructure and access to finance is improving. We are reforming our tax system to encourage enterprise and allocating more resources to attract investment and facilitate innovation. I have asked that Enterprise Ireland intensify its work to improve firm level competitiveness through its management capability and development programmes such as LEAN.

I will bring the National Competitiveness Council's competitiveness challenge report to Government shortly. Further actions and reforms, driven by the Action Plan for Jobs, will enable us to improve our competitiveness performance, ultimately helping us to achieve our objective of sustainable full employment.

The attempt by the Government to claim competitive levels are improving is belied by the statistics. The Minister referred to the World Bank's ease of doing business report. That report shows that Ireland's position has disimproved, falling a number of places to 18th position. The Taoiseach has also failed to meet his 2016 target of making Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business. Budget 2017 did not contain any measures to close the competitiveness deficit we experience vis-à-vis the United Kingdom. For example, the UK has a much more capital gains tax rate of 10% which applies to entrepreneurial gains of up to £10 million. This is far in excess of the €1 million ceiling that applies to our higher rate of capital gains tax.

The chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association has said the reduced capital gains tax rate does not bring Ireland onto the racetrack, to use his words, when the UK applies a ceiling of ten times the level of our €1 million threshold. Dublin Chamber of Commerce has said the changes will do little to stem the flow of start-up companies moving from Ireland to the United Kingdom. Our capital gains tax rates, particularly for start-up companies, are a major issue which the Government must address.

The British Prime Minister has indicated that the UK intends to reduce its rate of corporation tax to 15%, which would bring it close to the Irish rate. Against the backdrop of Brexit, Ireland has a competitiveness problem vis-à-vis the UK. What does the Government propose to do to reduce costs to business, red tape, the administrative burden, workload and underlying costs to make Irish businesses more competitive?

We are working with the enterprise agencies to ensure Irish companies are competitive. As I indicated in a previous reply, Enterprise Ireland has contacted its 1,400 companies and is offering them advice on how to become leaner.

Competitiveness is very important. The Deputy referred to a number of statistics. I must take on board what the IMD’s world competitiveness yearbook says, namely, that Ireland has moved from 16th to seventh in its competitiveness ranking. We cannot be complacent, however.

The Deputy referred to the budget and the €1 million ceiling applied here in respect of capital gains as opposed to £10 million in Britain. The Government will examine this issue in the context of budget 2018. I am aware of the issue, which is raised with me in my discussions with businesses.

The business expansion schemes were superseded by the employment and investment incentive scheme, which provides individual investors with a tax relief of up to 30% in respect of investments to a maximum of €150,000. In the UK, an investor in a new start-up business can benefit from tax relief of 30% on investments of up to £1 million.

The problem for entrepreneurs is that if they set up a business in this country and it is successful and they want to sell it, they will be penalised by capital gains tax. This disincentive is leading to entrepreneurs choosing to set up a business in the United Kingdom. Similarly, the UK authorities' incentive strategy which allows people to invest in their businesses is ten times better than what we have. This is what entrepreneurs are saying to us, but we do not appear to be taking it on board or doing anything about it. If we want to reach our targets in the Action Plan for Jobs, as I hope we will, why are we not taking these practical measures?

Budget 2017 included capital gains tax measures. It also included measures in regard to the foreign earnings deduction which will help Irish exporters to diversify their markets. We have extended the special assignee relief programme to assist businesses to relocate key staff to Ireland and have increased the earned income tax credit for self-employed taxpayers to encourage entrepreneurship. As the Deputy will be aware, the VAT rate applicable in the tourism and hospitality sector was reduced to 9% to assist the sectors in maintaining competitiveness in the light of recent currency movements. The sum of €150 million has been provided by way of flexible low cost finance to aid Irish farmers, while we have introduced income averaging in the agriculture sector to help in dealing with the expected volatility in demand. A further €119 million is being provided to boost the development of the agrifood sector. To be fair, the Government did respond in budget 2017 to the concerns expressed. We will continue to respond to the concerns being expressed by exporters.

Employment Rights

Mick Barry

Question:

4. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if her Department has noted the landmark ruling in the United Kingdom courts in favour of taxi drivers (details supplied) represented by the GMB union against the company confirming the drivers' status as employees as opposed to contractors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39125/16]

Has the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation noted the landmark ruling in the UK courts in favour of two taxi drivers represented by the GMB trade union against the Uber taxi company which confirmed the drivers' status as employees as opposed to contractors and will the Minister make a statement on the matter?

My Department is aware of the particular case referred to by the Deputy in which a division of the Employment Tribunal in the United Kingdom found that the drivers who did not hold a taxi licence were employees of the enterprise in question. I understand this decision is under appeal to the superior courts in the United Kingdom.

In Ireland there is a mechanism for the determination of the employment status of individuals or groups. Where an issue arises regarding the employment status of an individual, cases are forwarded to the Revenue Commissioners and-or the scope section of the Department of Social Protection for investigation, either solely by the recipient or jointly with the labour inspectorate of the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC. In most cases it will be clear whether an individual is employed or self-employed. Where there is doubt about the employment status of an individual, the relevant Departments and agencies will have regard to the code of practice for determining employment or self-employment status of individuals which was drawn up and agreed to in 2007 by the relevant Departments with the ICTU and IBEC. An individual who believes he or she is being deprived of employment rights applicable to employees may refer a complaint to the WRC where the matter can be dealt with by way of mediation or adjudication, leading to a decision that will be enforceable through the District Court. WRC inspectors can also be asked to investigate certain breaches. Complaints can be made on a single complaint form available on the WRC's website. The WRC's customer service section also provides information for employers and employees on employment, equality and industrial relations rights and obligations.

The Minister's reply sounds wonderful, but it is in sharp contrast to the reality in Ireland. The reality is that action on the part of the authorities to which the Minister referred is more the exception than the rule. Half of all the people working in construction in the State, often on publicly funded projects, are employed on the basis of bogus self-employment contracts. One particular recruitment firm, CLS Recruitment, is blatantly promoting these arrangements as a means of avoiding payment of the national minimum wage and holiday pay to and social insurance contributions for subcontractors in the construction sector. Earlier this year the fast food company, Deliveroo, sought to change its relationship with its employees in Ireland who were already on low wages. These employees were presented with new contracts, to the effect that they would in the future be self-employed and paid per delivery, the net effect of which was that their pay would be reduced to half the national minimum wage. How does the Minister account for this if the authorities within her remit are being so proactive?

The Deputy should inform those who are suffering such injustices to take up the matter with the labour inspectorate of the Workplace Relations Commission. As I said, details of how they can do this are available on the relevant website. We have increased staff numbers in the WRC such that waiting times in having cases heard have been shortened. The Deputy should encourage those suffering such injustices to report to the WRC which will work through their cases.

The new buzz term "the gig economy" is used to described this phenomenon which is increasingly prevalent. In reality, it is nothing new. It is a revival of 19th century-style piecework. The Minister's response that those concerned should report these injustices to the labour inspectorate does not take account of what is happening in Deliveroo in which the majority of workers are migrants. Some may even be in the country illegally. Going to the authorities to sort out this blatant exploitation would be very difficult for them. The Uber ruling and the victory of Deliveroo staff in Britain who recently fought for their rights should give encouragement to workers here to organise and fight for direct employment. However, this does not let the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation off the hook. What proactive steps does the Minister intend to take to combat this form of worker exploitation which is increasingly prevalent?

The Deputy mentioned the gig economy. Uber uses what is termed the gig economy business model. It operates a technology platform to link with customers looking for a taxi. As I said, the ruling in the case mentioned by the Deputy is being appealed to the superior courts in the United Kingdom. In Ireland if individuals working in the gig economy were to take a similar case and achieve a similar outcome, they would be entitled to the national minimum wage and holiday pay. In addition, the company concerned would have to pay taxes on behalf of the individuals working for it. On the gig economy, the only cases of which I am aware are the one taken against Uber in the United Kingdom and another in Spain.

Foreign Direct Investment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

5. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the meetings she and her Department's agencies have had to prepare for possible adverse impacts of the upcoming Trump Presidency such as the recent cancellation of a €400 million expansion plan by an American company based here (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39184/16]

President-elect Donald Trump, or The Donald as he used to call himself, tweeted on a number of occasions that any business that fires its employees in the United States and builds a new factory or plant in another country cannot then expect to be able to sell its products into the United States without retribution or consequences. That is wrong. I note the Taoiseach visited Silicon Valley and in New York he met Mayor Bloomberg and representatives of Irish companies and so on.

Has the Minister concerns? Has her Department received additional resources? I asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, about this a few weeks ago, particularly in regard to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, so he might address the challenge that may be presented by the Trump presidency.

My Department and its agencies closely monitor political and commercial developments, both in the United States and elsewhere, and we plan accordingly for changes that could affect the enterprise environment in Ireland. This is a normal and ongoing part of our work in ensuring that our open and export-oriented economy remains internationally competitive.

There has been speculation about the potential impact of the recent American presidential election result on foreign direct investment into Ireland. It is still far too early to make any definitive judgments on this. I do expect, however, that Ireland will continue to attract significant foreign direct investment from the United States. That is because US companies will have a continued need for a global presence in the years ahead, and Ireland is well placed in this regard given its proven track record and continuing access to the European market.

On the cancellation of the investment plan by the company referred to, I understand the company has not linked this to the forthcoming change of Administration in the United States. Instead, it is my understanding that the decision followed the cancellation of a proposed new drug that had been due for manufacture in the Irish plant. While this was regrettable, the company in question continues to employ very significant numbers of staff in several locations here and has made significant investments in its Irish facilities.

Regarding Pfizer's cancellation of its expansion at Grange Castle, which would have been worth €400 million to the economy and an additional 350 permanent jobs, the timing was unfortunate, at the very least. The company attributed this to the cancellation of the new drug for controlling cholesterol. There is concern over this.

The Taoiseach met President-elect Trump's strategic and policy forum of leading US businessmen. He also met Mayor Bloomberg and others. Was the Minister on that trip? Was her Department involved in that regard given the critical nature of what is at stake at this critical juncture?

The Minister gave a very wide-ranging and comprehensive speech to Dublin Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago. She wants Ireland to be in the top five in terms of competitiveness, yet Dublin Chamber of Commerce's own survey of business confidence shows a decline in the last three quarters, certainly for the Dublin region. Obviously, this is partially related to both Brexit and Mr. Trump's election, and perhaps even to quantitative easing. What additional resources is the Minister getting in respect of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, in particular, in order to address the challenge we now face?

The Deputy asked whether I was on the trip with the Taoiseach. I was not but I was on a trip in the autumn, approximately six weeks ago. The Deputy asked whether we are getting additional resources. We are. In the budget, €50 million in additional capital funding was allocated, representing a 10% increase, and €3 million extra in current funding was allocated. That money has been allocated to ensure a good and sustainable response to Brexit.

What was the Deputy's other question?

I asked the Minister about her speech to Dublin Chamber of Commerce. It is very nervous at the moment.

I have heard Mr. Aebhric McGibney say that. I was at another breakfast meeting at which an accountancy firm presented the results of a survey showing the chief executive's response was much more resilient and optimistic. The company was indicating it will take on staff next year.

Taking account of the action plan for jobs and having spoken to Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland chief executives, I believe the pipeline is good. It would be unfortunate if we were to talk ourselves into being less optimistic about the sustainability of the country by being overly concerned. Of course we are concerned but we are doing what is right. We are putting money where solutions can be achieved and we are working our way through it. With regard to Enterprise Ireland, work has been done with all the companies on a one-to-one basis.

It is now really important that we work not only sector by sector but also company by company because the companies have different requirements and difficulties.

Many of us were heartened last night to see on BBC's "Newsnight" programme that a London banking company said it is moving to Dublin. It is definitely coming to Dublin with approximately 140 jobs. That seems to be the message. Obviously, there will be swings and roundabouts in the circumstances we face. It was said we are in competition with Paris, Frankfurt, Bratislava, Malta and Madrid in respect of the provision of banking-related facilities in the European Union. Therefore, I wonder whether any special effort is being made in the City of London by the IDA.

I assure the Deputy that there is. We are actively considering the whole banking sector in the United Kingdom and the opportunities that might arise for Ireland.

Foreign Direct Investment

Bernard Durkan

Question:

6. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which she expects her Department to be in a position to encourage foreign direct investment here; her plans to ensure that Ireland can compete effectively with all others in the international arena in this regard; if she has set specific targets; if she is satisfied with Ireland's ability to compete effectively in this intensely competitive scene in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39075/16]

My question is to ascertain the extent to which the Minister will support, favour and pursue foreign direct investment in this country and to which she expects this country to be able to compete in the very competitive market considering the changing climate worldwide, particularly in light of Brexit.

Foreign direct investment, FDI, continues to be a key contributor to Ireland's economic development and growth. This Government's efforts to continue to attract FDI here will be guided by both my Department's policy statement on FDI and IDA Ireland's own five-year strategy for the period 2015 to 2019.

The IDA's strategy details how the agency will broaden its target sectors further and seek new markets. Specific targets have indeed been set as part of that approach, including boosting FDI in regional Ireland by 30% to 40% and creating 80,000 new jobs in the economy across the period of the strategy.

There is no denying that the global FDI market is increasingly competitive and that Ireland must fight hard to win each and every new investment. The challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit mean that we must maintain that focus on securing more FDI. I am confident, however, that our offering to prospective investors remains attractive. Our selling points include our pro-enterprise business environment, competitive economy, first-class workforce and proven track record as a home to global businesses. Our continued membership of the eurozone and European Union is also a significant positive. The Government will continue to work hard to reinforce these strengths while also taking steps to address any areas where we need to improve.

I thank the Minister for her comprehensive reply. May I further inquire as to the extent to which she and her Department are aware of the competition in the market? Who are the main competitors? How have they performed over the past six months by comparison with Ireland? To what extent is Ireland likely to compete with them over the next six months and the next two or three years? Does the Minister envisage Ireland asserting itself to an even greater extent? This will be required in the future given Brexit and changes in global markets.

I wish to ask about foreign direct investment, FDI, and jobs. The Minister has visited Limerick and the mid-west a great deal recently for welcome jobs announcements. Like all other Oireachtas Members from Limerick, I was told by e-mail that the Minister would be travelling to the area for another jobs announcement in the morning.

When I speak with people who are involved in education and training and recruitment companies, they tell me that there is a skills deficit in terms of the jobs that have been announced and that we may have difficulty finding the types of people required. Has the Minister any plan to conduct a skills audit of Limerick and the mid-west or the entire country?

Deputy Durkan asked about other countries competing. He should make no mistake about it, they are competing strongly. I have heard of several strong cities, but a number - Paris, Luxembourg, Frankfurt and Singapore - keep cropping up in conversation.

As regards FDI in Limerick, we have seen successes in the jobs announcements. However, that has not been happening in a vacuum. LIT, UL and Mary Immaculate are working closely together. I have not heard from the companies at which we have announced jobs that there is a skills shortage. As with our indigenous businesses, if a company wants to set up in Ireland, it can approach LIT or UL and devise programmes to deliver the necessary skills in the area around Limerick, which includes Clare and other counties. The educational services are responding to the needs of industry. I would love to see more work like that being done across the country. Thousands of jobs have been announced in the area in the recent past. What is happening in Limerick is working well and is an exemplar of what should be done in the education and skills field.

In light of the competitive zones that we are facing, to what extent has an evaluation been conducted of Ireland's positive points in terms of skills, economic competitiveness, access to world markets, ability to sell, brand recognition and location? The location, location, location idea seems to stand for a great deal. To what extent do the Minister and her Department monitor these aspects with a view to determining how best to compete for investment in markets and promote the Irish cause even more than previously?

Our best response, and one that has had a wonderful track record for the past 60 years, is the IDA. It does a professional job, goes out and wins markets. This has been evident since the recession, but particularly since everyone focused on the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs to bring jobs to Ireland.

We should not be looking to FDI entirely. Enterprise Ireland and the local enterprise offices in each county deliver good and sustainable jobs that allow people to expect to raise families. It would be a weakness on the part of Government policy were we to focus on FDI only.

Regarding the aspects that the Deputy mentioned and that we need to put in place, IDA is feeding into my Department so as to ensure that we attract good companies that provide sustainable jobs in Ireland.

The next question is in the name of Deputy Barry, but he is happy to let it be taken as a Written Answer.

Question No. 7 replied to with Written Answers.

Trade Agreements

Mick Wallace

Question:

8. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views regarding CETA's potential negative effects on workers' rights, particularly in view of the notable lack of penalties in the text for countries or companies that violate labour laws, as highlighted by Corporate Europe Observatory; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39116/16]

I have raised this issue previously with the Minister. Where will the safeguards be? As the Minister knows, we do not agree with this agreement. The Government keeps telling us that it likes the agreement, but how will workers' rights be impacted by it?

Under the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the EU and Canada have agreed to a common sustainable development framework establishing a set of rules for labour and the environment. CETA commits the EU and Canada to ensuring that their laws and policies provide and encourage high levels of labour protection. It further commits both parties to continue improving such laws and policies.

CETA reinforces the parties' commitments to international labour standards, including the International Labour Organisation, ILO, core labour standards, other labour rights, such as health and safety at work, and the ratification and implementation of the fundamental ILO conventions. CETA also includes a commitment on the part of all governments to ensure that there is no relaxation of labour rights in efforts to promote trade or attract investment.

The agreement provides for the establishment of civil society advisory groups that may submit opinions or make recommendations on labour-related concerns. CETA will further encourage intergovernmental co-operation on labour-related issues and in international forums.

The labour provisions in CETA are enforceable through the dedicated dispute settlement mechanism in chapter 23 of the agreement, including review by the independent panel of experts, and a high degree of transparency and monitoring.

Most independent observers of CETA will point to excessive liberalisation and deregulation and its weakening of the Government's right to regulate in the public interest. Last month, 450 civil society organisations from the EU and Canada published an open letter urging legislators to vote against CETA in February. They were all in agreement that CETA's investment court system, ICS, granted highly enforceable rights to investors but no corresponding obligations. It does not enable citizens, communities or trade unions to bring a claim when a company violates environmental, labour, health, safety or other rules. It risks being incompatible with EU law, as it establishes a parallel legal system, allowing investors to circumvent existing courts. The ICS is discriminatory because it grants rights to foreign investors that are neither available to citizens nor to domestic investors. This being the case, how can the Minister claim that labour rights will be protected?

Is the Minister aware that the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs this morning rejected CETA? When can the Dáil expect to have a debate on CETA?

The Taoiseach has said there will be a Dáil debate but at the moment, as the Deputy is aware, there is provisional application. The process for ratification can take a significant period of time. I am anxious for Irish businesses to be able to take advantage of the significant opportunities CETA provides. It is important to clarify that CETA will not force any change in EU standards. It will not affect our public services, labour rights or environmental standards.

In response to what Deputy Wallace said, as I outlined in the first paragraph of the reply, we have agreed to a sustainable development project framework. CETA commits both the EU and Canada to ensure their laws and policies provide and encourage high levels of labour protections. It is established in our industrial relations machinery that if people feel they have been treated badly in their workplace then they can resort to the national protection that is provided, in this country that means the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission. Breaches of labour law are covered under domestic legislation and we stand by that. We will look after our own domestic legislation on labour.

The Minister said we will be able to look after our own labour issues but in fact a corporation coming to a country in Europe will be allowed to use the investment court system to overrule domestic legislation. On 8 November the Minister said she had received advice to the effect that the investment court system model contained in CETA would effectively be a dispute resolution process which would not give rise to constitutional implications. She is probably aware that the Dublin-based senior counsel, Matthias Kelly, said the proposed investment court would "certainly infringe" upon the Constitution in two areas and possibly three. In his opinion the investment court system would possibly infringe on Article 15.2.1° which vests sole power to make law in the Oireachtas; it would certainly infringe on Article 34.1 which vests the power to dispense justice in the Irish domestic courts; and it would certainly infringe on Article 34.3.2° which makes the High Court and appellate courts above it the sole court in which a law may be questioned. If CETA really were a progressive agreement there would have been a lot more transparency in how it was negotiated.

CETA is a trade agreement and, to be fair, we are talking about Brexit and concerns we have about Irish exporters losing trade to the UK. We want to be able to trade with Canada. We already have a good export trade with Canada but we could improve the situation for Irish exporters.

As Deputy Wallace is aware, the provisional application excludes the investment court. We have a new EU agreement with South Korea, which has led to a 25% increase in Irish exports there. That is real evidence that trade agreements work for Irish exporters and create Irish jobs. When I travel around the country and meet families they are concerned about jobs. I am aware Deputy Wallace has a later question about jobs in Wexford. People want to make sure that we are a good trading nation and that markets are open to us. I do not agree with Deputy Wallace's analysis of CETA.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Mick Wallace

Question:

9. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she is satisfied with the number of IDA site visits to County Wexford in the past two years; if she will provide details of long-term measures she has planned in order to counteract economic stagnation in the south-east region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39113/16]

In regard to the previous question, less than 20% of the negotiations on CETA and TTIP concerned trade. I will now proceed to my question about jobs in Wexford. The national average unemployment rate is 7.2% while Wexford's unemployment rate is 18.4% - the third worst in the entire country. According to the South East Economic Monitor project, the south-east's economy continues to be characterised by persistently high levels of unemployment, deprivation and significantly lower job quality and that two data points explain why this might be the case: low education attainment and low higher education capacity within the region; and the paucity of new IDA-supported jobs over the past 25 years. Does the Minister have any serious plans to address those huge problems?

Site visits to County Wexford are increasing. In 2014 there was one site visit to the county, while in 2015 there were four such visits. By the end of September this year, six visits had taken place. It is certainly the case that the south east was badly affected by the economic crisis. I am pleased, however, that the employment situation there has improved remarkably in recent years. The unemployment rate, for example, has fallen from a peak of 20.1% in early 2012 to 10.4% now.

Client companies of both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland have contributed significantly to the improvement. In 2014 and 2015, those clients created a total of 5,181 new jobs in the south east, bringing total agency supported employment to 32,518 in the region.

The numbers show that the region is making significant progress, although much work remains to be done. The south-east regional Action Plan for Jobs, which was published by my Department last year, represents an important tool in our efforts to sustain the economic progress being made. Its goal is to have a further 25,000 people at work in the region by 2020 and to bring the unemployment level to within 1% of the State average.

I dispute the Minister's figures. The national average unemployment rate at the moment is 7.2%, the unemployment rate in the south east currently stands at 12.5%, while the unemployment rate in Wexford is 18.4%. It is a separate county, although I accept it is not classified as such, but not only is the south-east region badly served, Wexford is the worst served part of the south-east region. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, is well aware of the facts.

Wexford has the third highest rate of unemployment in the country. It has the highest rate of suicide, one of the highest rates of rent supplement payments in the State and one of the highest percentage rates of people having no formal primary education at 18.5%. We have one of the lowest percentage rates, 20.9%, of people going on to third level, and one of the highest percentage rates of lone parents in the State. We are the third most deprived county in the country and by far the most deprived county in the south east. Wexford finds itself on the wrong end of almost every chart there is, and it is frightening that any county has been left behind to such a degree. I accept that is not the fault of the Minister. Too much parish pump politics over the years has left Wexford in the State it is in. Are there plans to introduce proactive measures to address the fact that we are living in the Dark Ages in Wexford?

First, people in Wexford are not living in the Dark Ages. The chairperson of the task force is a Wexford man and he is really involved and driving the improvement and progress we want for the south-east region.

We launched the regional action plans and we are working our way through them. I take on board what Deputy Wallace said. I read the report carried out by the Waterford Institute of Technology on unemployment in the area. We are working our way through the action plans. Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, the Retail Forum and the local enterprise offices, LEOs, are working together to make sure jobs are provided in Wexford. I accept what Deputy Wallace said about the various problems, including social problems in the area, but the Action Plan for Jobs is working. The south-east region was hit particularly hard, especially in the construction sector. Approximately 10,000 jobs were lost in the region and one does not get them back overnight, but we are working on the issue and there is an improvement, which is evident from the statistics. We must work much harder. It might be a good idea for Deputy Wallace to interact with the implementation group in the south east and to meet the chairman, who is from Wexford, who is driving the implementation group.

I have no problem with meeting the chairman. It still does not change the fact that unemployment is 18.4%. I have not been told about any direct actions that will happen. I was in here last week with the Minister for Social Protection who told me that I should be happy to hear that the number of people on the live register in the south east had dropped from 28,500 to 24,900. In fact, the figure for the south east in November 2016 is 41,556 so God knows what the Minister was thinking of but he was completely out with his figures.

I realise that it is not easy to pluck jobs out the sky but the area has been neglected and Wexford has been the most neglected part of the south east. There is an argument that when the private sector is not prepared or interested in supplying jobs, the State should engage directly in employing people. It would not cost the Government much more and there is some benefit from it. It would take people off the dole and give them State work. If the initiative is right and the interest is there, improvements can be made, but we need action.

I take the Deputy's point but I am going by the figures I have. The published regional action plan jobs target for the south east is 25,000. A total of 13,000 jobs have been created in the area. The plan is working and the south east is probably one of the better regions. I realise that we still have a long way to go. I was down there and met the implementation group and its chairman on numerous occasions. We are working our way through it and I am sure the chairman would be delighted to meet Deputy Wallace. There is a skills forum. Someone asked me a question here earlier this evening. An assessment of skills is taking place. The construction sector was really hit hard. Many people in Waterford and probably Wexford worked in Waterford Crystal and traditional industries that are no longer there so we must look at it and make sure people are trained so that they are available for new opportunities in the area.

Credit Guarantee Scheme Implementation

Niall Collins

Question:

10. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the current drawdown levels issued under the credit guarantee scheme, including the total value of approvals on the same dates and a county breakdown of each drawdown and approval; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39111/16]

What are the Minister's views on the current drawdown levels issued under the credit guarantee scheme, including the total value of approvals on the same dates and a county breakdown of each drawdown and approval?

I am taking this question on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Breen, who is delayed in Brussels. On 3 November 2016, the Minister of State provided the Deputy with the most recently available breakdown of the value of approvals by county as at 21 October 2012, as given to the Minister of State by the new operator of those schemes effective from 17 October 2016 - the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI. Since then, the Minister of State has received the third quarterly report for 2016 for the period July to September 2016 and published this report on the website of the Department. If the Deputy does not have the report, I will make sure he gets it. The SBCI has advised that the total value of loans approved under the schemes since its inception in October 2012 exceeds €60 million. The actual drawdown of these facilities in the same period is approximately €17 million. However, it is not possible to provide a breakdown of drawdowns by county for data protection and confidentiality reasons.

A loan under a credit guarantee scheme is one with a higher degree of risk because the SME in question has already tried and failed to get a bank loan before applying under the scheme. Once a loan is approved, it is entirely a commercial matter for the SME to decide whether or not the loan will be drawn down in whole or part. While the benefit of a guarantee is offered to a borrower under the scheme, some borrowers do not proceed.

Recognising that deficiencies in the original schemes and legislation were impeding use of the novel approach of credit guarantees, the Government decided on a process of review and reform and an amendment Act was subsequently adopted in February 2016 increasing the level of risk taken by the State, extending the definition of lender and loans to cover sources of finance other than banks, involving the SBCI in this area and enabling the SBCI and the Minister of State to work together to unlock EU funding sources for our SMEs. Work is currently being finalised on the new credit guarantee scheme and on the introduction through the SBCI of new risk sharing counter guarantee products. These will ensure that the future schemes are more fully aligned to the needs of business and will lead to an increased take-up of approvals.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Government remains committed to ensuring that our SMEs have access to appropriate finance for their business needs, which will ensure that they continue to grow and develop. The credit guarantee schemes and the new counter guarantees are a central element of those supports which, when combined with other Government initiatives such as Microfinance Ireland, the SBCI, the Credit Review Office and the prompt payment code, should enable companies to expand, service new markets and grow employment.

The Minister and Minister of State will be aware that in the context of the many discussions we have had about Brexit, the credit guarantee scheme is a significant part of the model our SMEs need to allow them to compete on an international basis bearing in mind that we are largely an exporting economy. The figures for approvals I have here show a concentration in Dublin and the greater Dublin area of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. Naturally, some of that is down to the concentration of population, business and trade around the capital. In terms of trying to address the imbalance of regional development we are experiencing, we know that the country is lagging behind the city and waiting for the spillover effect from Dublin is a long wait for a lot of people and communities. Bearing in mind what ICTU, ISME, IBEC and the Irish Exporters Association are saying about the challenges Brexit poses for our businesses in exporting to the UK and trying to diversify into other markets to lessen the impact of Brexit, when can we expect the new scheme mentioned by the Minister of State to become available to businesses? What kind of timeframe are we talking about? Are we looking at greater levels of cover which businesses can avail of?

I accept that the take up of the scheme outside Dublin is comparatively low and this is being looked at. It is consistently asked why the figure of €17 million is so low compared to the credit guarantee scheme-sanctioned figure of €61 million. I do not know if a breakdown of the approval of loans and distribution by county and the reason why many people outside Dublin do not take up the scheme has been given to the Deputy but if not, it should have been. While guarantee-backed loans approved under the scheme are easily quantifiable, for some reason, some SMEs, and there seems to be higher proportion outside Dublin, make the commercial decision not to take up the scheme. I do not know the reason for this. It should also be noted that negotiations between the Department and the Department of Finance are ongoing and there is a recognition that there is some fault in the scheme. There is no question about that. The objective of the scheme was that there would be parity across the country in respect of take up . I am told that in a number of months, an initiative should be put in place. It will take a bit of time. The scheme will probably be brought to the Dáil and Members will be able to put further questions regarding the current scheme if they feel there are deficiencies in it and how the next scheme could be put in place.

Military Exports

Clare Daly

Question:

11. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the fact that no preliminary figures on the export of dual use and military items are yet available for 2016 in view of the fact that six monthly reports on such exports were published at the end of June in each of the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 and in May 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38950/16]

Clare Daly

Question:

13. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the fact that the report on the export of military and dual use items from Ireland under the Control of Exports Act 2008 covering the period 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015 has not yet been published and preliminary figures are the only figures available for this period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38949/16]

For many years, Ireland has had a poor record on publishing data on its military and dual use exports. It was safer for Governments to pretend that we were not an exporter of arms to maintain our thin facade of neutrality. However, perhaps provoked by the Mark Thomas documentary, we got the Control of Exports Act 2008. In 2011 we got the first report on exports of arms and dual-use items. As we approach the end of 2016, we do not have preliminary figures for this year or detailed figures for 2015. What is the explanation?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 13 together.

My Department is responsible for controls on the export of military items from Ireland. Under Irish law, military export licences must be sought for the export from Ireland of military goods and technology and any component thereof listed on the EU common military list. Items which are classified as "military goods" from an export control perspective and exported from Ireland involve components rather than finished military equipment. Military licences issued by my Department include licences issued to individuals holding sports firearms and companies engaged in mining activity.

My Department is also responsible for licensing the export of dual-use items outside the European Union. It performs this function pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009 setting up a Community regime for the control of exports and the transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items. The term "dual-use" refers to items that are normally used for civilian or commercial purposes but which may also have a military application. The vast majority of dual-use licences issued by my Department are for commercial purposes.

Export licence statistics for both military and dual-use goods for the period 1 January to 30 June 2016 will be published before the end of the month. My Department also publishes more comprehensive annual reports on its export licensing activity undertaken under the Control of Exports Act 2008. It is my intention to publish the report for the period 1 January to 31 December 2015 later this month. As the Deputy will be aware, the previous report for the period 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2014 was published by my Department in December 2015.

In 2014 Ireland issued 50 licences for exports of dual-use items to Saudi Arabia. In the same year €2.3 million worth of straight-up weapons were exported to the same place. Saudi Arabia started to bombard Yemen in 2015 and has been accused by the United Nations of committing war crimes there. How many weapons and weapon components were sent from Ireland to Saudi Arabia that were used against Yemeni civilians? This is of importance to the people of Ireland, given what is happening in Yemen today. It is reckoned that about 20 million people have either been displaced or are at risk of poverty in Yemen. It is a total humanitarian disaster and Saudi Arabia is engaging in genocide. Is the Minister comfortable with the fact that Ireland is still prepared to send to Saudi Arabia components of weapons which can be put together with other weapon parts to kill people?

As I said, there is legislation in place. Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009 establishes a licensing regime for the export of dual-use products from the European Union. The regulation applies directly to Ireland and Irish exporters. It includes an extensive and detailed list of dual-use items for which a licence is required to export from the European Union. The list is updated regularly, most recently in November.

The Control of Exports Act 2008 requires the Minister to prepare and lay before each House of the Oireachtas a report on operations in the preceding year. The reports provide statistics for licensing activity in the export of military and dual-use goods and also describe developments in Ireland's export control regime. They include a ministerial foreword. It is currently being drafted. The reports are available on the Department's website. I take my role in this area very seriously.

Items are included in the EU military exports and dual-use items lists because they are dangerous objects which can be put to deadly use. It has often been argued that some of them are innocuous, but if that was the case, the Minister should be lobbying the European Union to take them off the lists. While she might claim that the European Union is happy for us to export dual-use items, given that at least we pretend to be neutral, how, in God's name, can we export to Saudi Arabia anything that could be used against the people of Yemen? I do not understand the logic. We seem to tolerate just about anything Saudi Arabia does. It would not even allow speaking time following the death of Fidel Castro. While there are questions about his human rights' record, he never got up to half the mischief Saudi Arabia has got up to. As the Minister of State sitting beside the Minister will vouch, there is no way Ireland should have anything to do with what is happening as part of Saudi Arabia's military policy.

My Department takes this issue very seriously. The export licensing regime ensures as far as possible that exported items will be used by the stated end-user for the end-uses stated. It seeks to prevent exported items from being used for illicit purposes. Safeguards are built into the licensing system to facilitate robust checks and cross-checking in this regard. The licensing unit of my Department is responsible for the analysis and processing of applications for export licences. All applications are subject to rigorous scrutiny on a case by case basis. The licensing unit ensures companies based in Ireland comply with national and EU legislation governing the export of dual-use items and military goods. The linkage between export controls and international disarmament, human rights and security concerns requires ongoing contact which happens, both formally and informally, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

While I do not know what the appropriate forum is, if there is a link between countries to which we are prepared to export and human rights concerns, will the Minister, please, ask the Cabinet whether it is right for Ireland to continue to export dual-use items to Saudi Arabia? If, as the Minister said, there is a link with human rights concerns, we cannot possibly export such items to Saudi Arabia. I plead with her to raise the really serious issue with the Cabinet. While things are bad in Syria, they are getting even worse in Yemen and Saudi Arabia is responsible thanks to the backing of the US military. We are staying silent and still prepared to export dual-use items to Saudi Arabia.

My officials are in regular contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on export licensing issues. They consult it on all military exports licence applications and the majority of dual-use items export licence applications. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides valuable advice for my Department. Its observations are considered fully in the assessment of licence applications. In addition to these day-to-day contacts with the disarmament and non-proliferation section of that Department, more formal liaison meetings take place on a regular basis to share information and review strategic issues which affect export controls.

Research and Development Funding

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

12. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she will provide a detailed breakdown of the recipients of the science and technology development programme in tabular form; the amount they received; the details of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38945/16]

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

16. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she will provide a detailed breakdown of the recipients of the programme for research in third level institutions; the amount they received; the details of the specific project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38946/16]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 16 together.

My Department recently secured Cabinet approval for the provision of a capital investment package of €60 million for expenditure in 2016. This will include €49 million for innovation, including the areas of research and development, science and technology. It includes funding of €27 million to Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, as part of the science and technology development programme, and €20 million to the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, PRTLI, and €2 million to the European Space Agency.

The additional capital of €27 million will allow SFI to fund the acquisition of critically needed research equipment across each of the seven universities in Ireland as well as in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the Waterford Institute of Technology, Teagasc and the Tyndall National Institute.

The €20 million being provided to the PRTLI cycle 5 will be used to pay off a further instalment of an outstanding bill for PRTLI cycle 5 awards to the higher education sector for equipment and buildings. It will be distributed across all seven national universities, as well the Cork and Dublin Institutes of Technology.

The €2 million being provided to the European Space Agency is being allocated to two separate programmes - €1 million each to the ESA's advanced research in telecommunications systems, ARTES, satellite communications programme and the general support technology programme, GSTP. This additional investment in these two European Space Agency programmes will result in contracts for Irish companies and create jobs and exports.

The increased funding under these programmes shows the Government’s commitment to meeting the targets set in Innovation 2020, our strategy for research, development, science and technology.

My officials will provide a full breakdown of the details of the allocations of these Supplementary Estimates in tabular form and I can provide some details to the Deputy's supplementary questions.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I am concerned about the uneven distribution of funding at a regional and institutional level. Innovation 2020, which outlines the Minister of State's Department's strategy for research, development, science, technology identifies innovation as being critical. For example, page 15 of that document notes:

The primary rationale for Government investment in innovation is to develop a competitive knowledge-based economy and society and to drive innovation in enterprise...and maximise the return on our investment for economic and social progress. Investment in research and development increases economic productivity and competitiveness, and improves quality of life, health, and social and environmental outcomes. An essential component of supporting an innovative and enterprising economy, innovation investment is crucial to creating and maintaining high-value jobs and attracting, developing and nurturing business.

I absolutely agree with the sentiments in Innovation 2020 that research is of vital importance to underpin a strong, developed, progressive and sustainable society.

I acknowledge the Deputy's great interest in research and development. He has put questions to the Department on a number of occasions and I am always interested to meet with the Deputy. I want to go through a few things of interest and I promise to send on details to the Deputy within a couple of days. In the short time I have I will provide a list of the research performing institutes. These include: University College Dublin; Trinity College, Dublin; University College Cork; Dublin City University; the National University of Ireland Maynooth; University of Limerick; the National University of Ireland Galway; Waterford Institute of Technology; the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; and the Tyndall National Institute in Cork.

The Deputy was wondering how the €20 million on PRTLI will be spent. It will be distributed across a number of research performing institutes, including all seven national universities. I have the breakdown in regard to the €27 million to Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, and I can forward this to the Deputy at any time. It may answer his question. I have the information here but it would take too long to read out. I will make sure it is sent on to the Deputy.

Deputies Lawless and Quinlivan may have one supplementary question each. We are running close to time.

Will the Minister of State circulate the breakdown of the programme to the rest of the House also? We speak about the science and technology development programme and how it is going to be apportioned. I have a similar concern about the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, PRTLI. We are awaiting detail on the PRTLI successor programme and how it will be manifested. What the strategic focus in that programme will be is of particular interest. The PRTLI programme always provided support for multiple disciplines and I query whether that has now been narrowed to provide a strategic focus in certain areas, along the SFI model or if it remains a broad-based programme, as PRTLI was intended to be. Perhaps the Minister would clarify that.

I thank the Minister for agreeing to send that detail on to me. With regard to the OECD and its support for strong public investment in science and innovation, the OECD knows that the Government must continue to invest in future sources of growth such as education, infrastructure and research. The OECD has said that cutting back on public investment in support for innovation only provides short-term fiscal relief but would damage the foundation of long-term growth. I am concerned that the uneven distribution of funds will result in a regional and institutional deficit when it comes to scientific and technological innovation.

The Deputy is asking if cycle 5 of the programme is fully paid, or what is remaining to be paid. In monetary terms, cycle 5 was the largest of the five cycles which awarded a total of €359 million in funding across 36 distinct projects. My Department continues to make payments to the colleges via the Higher Education Authority in respect of the PRTLI cycle 5. Total expenditure by my Department on PRTLI in 2016 was €30.7 million, including the additional €20 million Supplementary Estimate payment for 2016. The remaining total liabilities under cycle 5 will now be reduced to €36 million. We have been paying down cycle 5 liabilities at a rate of approximately €30 million per annum, with some variation around the precise timing of the payments. At this stage, we expect to clear PRTLI cycle 5 liabilities by the end of 2018.

Question No. 13 answered with Question No. 11.
Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.
Sitting suspended at 4.35 p.m. and resumed at 4.40 p.m.