Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Employment Data

Billy Kelleher

Question:

52. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the regional spread of additional jobs added in the 12 months to quarter 3 of 2018 indicated by the latest labour force survey. [50767/18]

What are the Minister's views on the regional spread of additional jobs added in the 12 months to quarter 3 of 2018 indicated by the most recent labour force survey?

Many of my colleagues tabled the same question with regard to their own counties and constituencies and they were all referred to the Department of the Taoiseach even though their questions were worded the same as mine. The only difference is I asked the question on a national basis and they asked it on a regional or local basis. Seven of them were referred to the Department of the Taoiseach. Whether it is censorship by stealth or centralisation of Government by stealth I am not sure, but it happened.

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. I will be answering a number of questions from Deputies across the country on this specific issue. I do not know why they were referred elsewhere. It is out of my hands. I do not know. I cannot answer that question.

If the questions are related to the CSO, they are referred to the Department of the Taoiseach.

It is possible. I do not know. I note the release of the results of the labour force survey for quarter 3 of 2018 by the CSO on Tuesday, 20 November. Overall, the release is very positive. Figures show employment continues to grow strongly with 66,700 jobs created in the year from quarter 3 of 2017 to quarter 3 of 2018, which brings total employment to 2,273,000. The number of people in employment has increased in six of the eight regions in the year from quarter 3 of 2017 to quarter 3 of 2018. The exception to this is the mid-west, which has remained static, and the Border region.

We want to have a situation where all regions are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic recovery and growth and thereby reduce regional disparities. Strategic investments within the overarching national context, embodied by Project Ireland 2040, and actions focused on maximising the competitive advantages and potential of each of the regions are key to ensuring each region can contribute to and participate in Ireland's future national growth and sustain a higher standard of living.

Since the launch of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs there has been an increase of 258,800 people in employment across the State. The figure is for the period from quarter 1 of 2015 to quarter 3 of 2018. A total of 163,500 people in the regions outside Dublin entered employment in that period. That represents a figure of over 63%, or three in five jobs created, for regions outside County Dublin during the period from quarter 1 of 2015 to quarter 3 of 2018. The Regional Action Plan for Jobs initiative is a central pillar of the Government's ambition to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, of which some 135,000 will be outside Dublin.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

A key objective of the initiative is to have a further 10% to 15% at work in each region by 2020, with the aim of reducing the unemployment rate in each region to within one percentage point of the national average.

Government policies are working but, of course, we always want to do more. That is why in April this year I asked all Regional Action Plan for Jobs committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all regional plans to ensure their relevance and impact up to 2020. The refresh and refocus will ensure the plans remain effective and continue to deliver jobs throughout the country. It will ensure the plans can be sufficiently robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit. In October I met the chairpersons again to hear directly about the progress made to date. All regions have established a project delivery team. Each team has met to examine initial proposals for each region's strategic objectives and all regions have a working draft of their refreshed plans.

My Department is also working closely with the agencies, including IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and local enterprise offices, and other relevant stakeholders. Their ongoing regional activities will also be included in the plans. The aim is to have the refreshed regional plans completed by the end of the year.

We all extend congratulations and concur that there is a buoyant labour market. However, it is sometimes or often outside the control of Government policy which sets down broad parameters. It is then up to business to thrive within them. The Government has an active policy on regional development, but it is failing dismally. I will explain why. In the Border region the employment gain from the third quarter of 2017 to the third quarter of 2018 was 0%. The figures for other areas are as follows: in the west the figure is 5%; in the mid-west, 0%; in the south east, 0.6%; in the south west, 15%; in Dublin county and city, 32%; in the mid-east, 7.3%; and in the midlands, 7.9%. In two regions there was zero growth, while there is a major uptake in job creation throughout the country. Imbalance is part and parcel not of Government policy but of its consequences.

Job creation in the regions is a key priority for the Government. Our ambition has been to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, of which some 135,000 will be outside Dublin. According to Central Statistics Office figures released last week, we are over 96% of the way there in meeting both targets. We are well on course to meet and exceed them by 2020. Overall, three out of every five new jobs have been created outside Dublin since the Regional Action Plan for Jobs was launched in 2015 and we continue to see an increasing number of positive job announcements throughout the country. I am altogether familiar with the Border region. In the past year the rate of unemployment along the Border has dropped from 6.5% to 5.1%. It is down from a high of 16.1% in 2012 and lower than the State average. The number of unemployed persons in the Border region in quarter 3 of 2018 dropped to 9,500 people from 12,400. This means that there are 2,900 fewer people on the live register in the region. The Government is absolutely committed to continuing to drive job creation along the Border.

I do not doubt the Minister's commitment. What I am questioning is her ability to implement the commitments she makes. It is clear and evident that she is failing dismally. There are two regions with zero employment growth, namely, the Border region and the mid-west. These regions saw zero growth when we had a boom. The Minister's colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, said Ireland was unbalanced. We must accept that comment, given that 45% of GDP is generated inside the M50. That is a clear indication that the country is grossly unbalanced. It will tip into the Irish Sea if it continues to develop around the capital and on the east coast. At the same time, there are large areas of the country where there has been zero growth in employment during a sustained period of growth nationally, which is an indictment. It is time we accepted that Government policy is not working. While the commitments are in place, their roll-out is having a negative impact because, unfortunately, the regional imbalance is very much to the fore in everyday life in many parts of the country.

I am absolutely conscious of the need for a regional balance. We have done a great deal of work during the past year to ensure there has been a regional balance. Only last Monday, in the second call for the regional enterprise development fund, I announced an allocation of a little over €25 million in funding that will support the regions to deliver on their economic and enterprise development potential. Of course, there are some areas that are not doing as well as others, which is why we have the Regional Action Plan for Jobs committees. They have started a process to refresh and refocus all of the regional plans and come up with good ideas. The regional enterprise development fund provides the money that will make them materialise. There have been some particularly good projects.

I do not want to hear that the Border region is not doing well. It is doing extremely well and a great region in which to invest as there is a strong work ethic in it. I was there yesterday - I live there - and there was great excitement about all of the investments that had materialised through the regional enterprise development fund. There was a really good investment in a hub in north Leitrim. It had started off originally with Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin. It is a highly successful business, on which the hub is building.

Brexit Supports

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

53. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to outline the contingency plans she has put in place for businesses and hauliers in the event of a hard Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50531/18]

As the Minister is well aware, the Brexit deal negotiated between the European Union and the United Kingdom is set to be voted on this day next week in the House of Commons, but it seems crystal clear already that it will be voted down by a large margin. There will be more chaotic scenes in British politics, thereby increasing the chances of a no-deal Brexit. What arrangements have been and are being made by the Department to ensure North-South trade will continue uninterrupted? Are contingency plans in place for exporters and hauliers who use the landbridge through Britain? What has been the level of contact and co-operation between the Minister and her counterpart in London on the matter?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. My Department and its agencies are working as part of a coherent cross-government approach to help businesses and the country to prepare for a worst case Brexit scenario, while continuing to work with our EU partners to secure the best possible Brexit outcome. As the Deputy is aware, the Government has placed preparing for Brexit at the top of its budget 2019 priorities. I have also prioritised Brexit preparedness as one of my three main priorities, alongside regional growth and innovation. I am confident that the business community will be best placed to meet the challenges ahead.

Budget 2019 provided over €110 million for additional Brexit preparedness resources and initiatives across Departments and agencies. My Department and its agencies are participating in the new cross-government awareness campaign, Getting Ireland Brexit Ready, with events in Cork, Galway, Monaghan and Dublin in October, as well as in Limerick and Donegal last month.

Over 3,000 businesses have used Enterprise Ireland's Brexit scorecard to date and 85% of its client firms are taking Brexit-related actions such as diversifying their export markets, improving operational competitiveness and investing in research and development.

I have provided funding for 98 additional staff for the agencies and regulatory bodies within the remit of my Department to date to prepare Irish businesses for Brexit. In addition, I am providing an additional €8 million in 2019 for my Department, as well as its agencies and regulatory bodies, to continue the work on our Brexit response and in increasing our global footprint.

The additional work of my Department's agencies such as the Health and Safety Authority and the National Standards Authority of Ireland is particularly important in helping businesses to prepare for a worst case scenario. I am providing an additional €1 million for InterTradeIreland in 2019 to expand its essential work in providing support and advice for businesses to sustain cross-Border trade and on the specific issues related to potential tariffs under a reversion to a World Trade Organization regime.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Enterprise Ireland and Revenue are working closely in the design and development of an online platform on future customs requirements for when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and becomes a third country. It will be rolled-out from early 2019 to all importers and exporters through the local enterprise offices.

I am acutely aware that in the event of a worst case scenario access to finance and liquidity may become issues of concern for exporting businesses, in particular. I am working with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in the roll-out of a new €300 million Brexit long-term loan scheme, to come into effect from early 2019, to provide loans of up to ten years.

The Brexit working capital loan scheme which I launched earlier this year provides affordable working capital for eligible businesses with up to 499 employees that are, or will be, impacted on by Brexit and meet the scheme criteria. As of 23 November 2018, there had been 307 applications for eligibility, of which 270 were approved, ranging from the agrifood to the retail and distribution, manufacturing, hospitality and transport sectors. A total of 54 loans have progressed to sanction at the finance provider level, corresponding to a total value of €12.51 million.

I recognise the importance of the haulage, transport and logistics sectors to the functioning of the economy and success in international markets. As the Deputy is aware, transport issues are within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. I assure the Deputy that the Minister and his Department are engaging actively with stakeholders in the sector on Brexit preparedness.

I thank the Minister for her reply.

I was happy to attend the very well-organised conference in Thomond Park in Limerick, which was quite successful and at which there was a good turnout. With the increased threat of a hard Brexit, I am very concerned about businesses that depend on using the land bridge through Britain for goods going to and from the Continent. According to the data from the Copenhagen economic report, two thirds of Irish exporters make use of the British land bridge to access continental markets. This is particularly true of our food exporters and importers, and they are vulnerable on this specific route as travelling to the Continent by sea is two to three times longer and consequently is not viable.

There is now a real risk that Britain will crash out of the EU with no deal. Are there any specific plans to deal with the land bridge issue? Has the Department looked at solutions such as bonded warehouses in Britain or additional freight ships that could cater for some of the non-perishable goods?

All Departments and agencies are continuing their contingency planning for Brexit, anticipating both orderly and disorderly scenarios. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and indeed all Departments, have continually stressed the importance of stakeholders taking all necessary steps within their control to prepare for Brexit, including the importance of undertaking contingency planning to minimise the impact of Brexit on their operations. I assure the Deputy that I and other Ministers will continue to work with our EU counterparts, both in EU capitals and within the EU institutions, to protect the interests of our businesses and our haulage sector.

It is vital to minimise the impact of Brexit by avoiding any new regulatory burden for our hauliers. I am pleased that transport and logistics providers have been participating in many of the advisory sessions being held around the country. Many of them have also applied for the Brexit loan scheme. The recent developments on the withdrawal agreement have been welcome. Pending the final outcome of the EU-UK negotiations, however, it is not possible to outline the regulatory regime that will be in place for Irish licensed road transport operators in the various post-Brexit scenarios. While the Government remains focused on the finalisation of the withdrawal agreement to ensure an orderly UK exit, preparations are continuing for all contingencies.

Will the Minister update us on the memo that leaked from Cabinet last week? I understand that it was a memo from the Tánaiste which stated that Ireland will not be ready for a hard Brexit and referenced things such as site acquisitions, planning permission and procurement and construction issues that exist at our ports and airports. This was very concerning to hear and will add to the business worries around a hard Brexit and how businesses will get their products to and from Ireland. What plans is the Government putting in place to ensure we have a smooth continuation of imports and exports should a hard Brexit materialise?

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, hosted an all-island sectoral meeting on Brexit in Dundalk last year. A number of other stakeholder events were held this year and last year. The Department continues to work with the road haulage, tourism, aviation and maritime sectors and stakeholders to identify and plan further for the implications of Brexit. A study was carried out by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to assess the reasons for the use of the land bridge. There is a lot of information in that report, but, to cut to the chase, the study recommended that Ireland's continued access to the UK land bridge is protected in the ongoing EU-UK negotiations. There is ongoing liaison with the European Commission on this matter and on other implications for the international road haulage sector.

We are continuing with contingency planning for all scenarios, both for the central case of a withdrawal agreement being fully agreed and a no-deal outcome, which I feel remains unlikely. It is not helpful to discuss the no-deal scenario at this time. The focus must be on ratifying the agreement, which is the only possible deal that can deliver an orderly UK withdrawal and which has been endorsed by the European Council and the British Government.

Insurance Costs

Billy Kelleher

Question:

54. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken to reduce the excessive sums awarded for whiplash compensation claims in view of the latest data published by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB. [50768/18]

I ask the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps that have been taken to reduce the excessive sums awarded for whiplash compensation claims in view of the latest data published by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB. We are all aware that Ireland is out of step with its European partners. Claims for whiplash in Ireland average around €20,000, whereas across the water the average is between €3,500 and €4,000. There is a fivefold difference. We are well out of step, and measures must be implemented immediately to address this.

The cost of insurance working group, chaired by my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D’Arcy, has undertaken a review of the factors which are influencing the increased cost of insurance. Its objective is to identify immediate and longer-term measures which can address increasing costs while bearing in mind the need to maintain a stable insurance sector. The first phase of this work involved an examination of the motor insurance sector. The second phase involved an examination of the employer liability insurance and public liability insurance sectors.

The work of the cost of insurance working group is complemented by the work of the Personal Injuries Commission, PIC. I was pleased to submit the second and final report of the PIC to the Government on 18 September 2018. The publication of this report concluded the challenging work programme of the PIC since its establishment in January 2017 on foot of a recommendation in the cost of insurance working group motor report.

The benchmarking exercise, undertaken by independent consultants on behalf of the PIC and published in this second and final report, has revealed that the level of general damages for whiplash injuries in this jurisdiction runs at a multiple of typically 4.4 times that of our nearest neighbours, England and Wales. This multiple is of such a magnitude that the PIC is satisfied that it calls for a response that is both effective and achievable in the shortest possible time.

The key recommendation in the report follows the example of judicial intervention which has occurred in Northern Ireland and in the UK, namely the introduction of judicial guidelines for judges. The PIC believes that the imminent statutory establishment of the Irish Judicial Council provides a unique opportunity to seek and obtain guidance for judges in measuring general damages for personal injury. Judicial guidelines should lead to greatly increased levels of consistency in awards, enable early resolution of claims and reduce costs.

I welcome the publication in November by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, of data on whiplash related injury compensation awards resulting from road traffic accidents. The publication of these data delivers on a recommendation from the first report of the Personal Injuries Commission published in December 2017 and involved analysis of approximately 4,500 awards made in the first six months of 2018.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018, which is scheduled for Committee Stage this evening, is an important measure to encourage more personal injury claims to be settled within the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, process. PIAB facilitates the objective assessment of damages at a much lower delivery cost and in a far shorter timeframe than through litigation. PIAB processes claims within 7.3 months compared to several years for litigation. Therefore, encouraging more claimants to finalise their cases through the PIAB model rather than resorting to litigation should lead to cost savings in the claims environment. This is good for society as a whole as it delivers compensation more quickly, with lower costs and predictable outcomes.

We are primarily talking about people who are making fraudulent claims. There is no doubt that people see whiplash injuries as a soft money-making proposition. As a society and as an Oireachtas we have not challenged this issue at all. We consistently turn a blind eye to the fact that people are scamming in this way and forcing up the cost of insurance. That has profound implications for people, especially young people and rural people who have no choice in the matter. They need a car, but the cost of insurance is excessive.

The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D'Arcy, in one of his only recent announcements in the area of insurance, discussed the holding of a referendum to cap awards. The Minister knows as well as I do that that is not likely to happen in the near future. It would be very helpful if he brought forward a judicial council Bill instead of sending out press releases. Such a Bill would establish a council which would give effect to what is recommended in terms of the Judiciary having guidelines and its members being able to educate themselves about awards and to set benchmarks. The idea of having a referendum, which is a major announcement, undermines the whole process and diminishes the credibility of it.

The work my Department is doing on the PIAB Bill is progressing, and the establishment of the judicial council by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, is another important element of reform. These form part of a suite of measures taken by the Government which will help to reduce insurance claims. Other measures are also being taken. The Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018 was signed into law in July this year. It is important legislation and will address the Setanta legacy. The Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Bill 2018 is another very important step forward for the work of the cost of insurance working group. It passed Committee Stage last month and it is hoped this Bill can be enacted by the end of the year to allow the database to be operational from early 2019. The Bill also included two amendments to section 8 and section 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 to implement recommendations contained in the employer and public liability report.

These measures are very important for stakeholders as, when implemented, they should make it easier for businesses and insurers to challenge cases where fraud or exaggeration is suspected.

We have discussed this issue for a long time. I am not questioning the Minister's bona fides, but the reality is that the pace of progress is lethargic. We only have to look at the Judicial Council Bill 2017 which was only recently sent to the Seanad. It is a key recommendation and an important component. We have been talking about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 for the last year and a half. It is an integral part of ensuring the independence of the Judiciary and streamlining its ability to self-assess to ensure it is making awards that are commensurate what is required and with those made in other countries. A Garda fraud unit is another key recommendation, but it has yet to be established. The insurance industry is talking about financing it. There would be no cost to the State. We need action on that issue now. At the end of the day there must be sanctions. I introduced the Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2018 which is to proceed to Committee Stage at some point. I sincerely hope it will be supported, while accepting that amendments might be required. It will send a strong message that fraudsters and chancers will face the rule of law and that there is a downside to fraudulent claims.

I agree with the Deputy. Fraudsters, gangsters and chancers should not be rewarded through fraudulent claims. That is wrong. The insurance companies need to challenge such claims and should not pay out until they are fully satisfied that a claim is genuine. It is a priority of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, to proceed with establishing the judicial appointments council and the Garda fraud unit, a recommendation made in my Department's report. There are a number of approaches; the problem will not be fixed, with just one solution. Several things are happening concurrently. The Government is satisfied that when all of the different items of legislation are passed and enacted, they will make a difference. We are doing everything we can because the Deputy is right - people who claim fraudulently should not be rewarded. However, we have to find a balance with the needs of those with genuine claims. It is all about finding a solution that will not impact negatively on those who do deserve compensation.

Employment Data

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

55. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the fact that while the Central Statistics Office, CSO, has found that there has been a 3% increase in the number of persons employed in the third quarter of 2018, there has been no change in employment numbers in the mid-west region; if this will be addressed by her Department and the State agencies under her aegis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50823/18]

We have seen consistent improvements in employment figures for several years. That was reflected in the figures for the third quarter of 2018, with a 3% improvement nationally. In the mid-west, however, the figures have not improved; rather, they have been stagnant. My question is whether the Minister is concerned about this. There is certainly concern in the mid-west about the fact that there was no increase in employment in the region in the third quarter of 2018.

I note the release of the results of the labour force survey for the third quarter of 2018 issued by the CSO on Tuesday, 20 November. Overall, the release is very positive. The figures show that employment continues to grow strongly, with 66,700 jobs created in the year from the third quarter of 2017 to the third quarter of 2018. It brings total employment to 2,273,200.

Between the launch of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs in the first quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2018 there has been an increase of 258,800 people in employment in the State as a whole, of whom 163,500 are located in the regions outside County Dublin. It equates to three out of every five jobs created. In the mid-west region there has been an increase in the number of people in employment, from 196,500 to 215,300, since the Regional Action Plan for Jobs was launched, that is, from the first quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2018. This represents an increase of 18,800 jobs, or 9.5%. In the same period the level of unemployment has reduced, from a high of 12% to 7.2%. In real terms, the number unemployed in the mid-west region has decreased by 10,300 in the period since the first quarter of 2015. The CSO labour force survey reports no change in the numbers in employment in the mid-west in the year before the third quarter of 2018. However, it also reports a decline in the level of unemployment of 2,600 in the mid-west region in the same period, which is very welcome.

Realising the enterprise and jobs potential in all regions and thereby reducing disparities between regions continues to be a priority of the Government. Under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs, we remain committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10% and 15% in each region by 2020 and bringing the unemployment level in each region to within at least 1% of the State average. We have more to do.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The mid-west Regional Action Plan for Jobs process has had some notable successes such as the launch of Propeller Shannon Accelerator, a student enterprise network at the University of Limerick, and a Limerick for Engineering showcase, among many other initiatives. Earlier this year I asked the Regional Action Plan for Jobs implementation committees, including in the mid-west, to refresh and refocus their plans to ensure their relevance and impact from now until 2020, especially in the face of current challenges, including Brexit. This work is ongoing and expected to conclude by the end of the year. On Monday, in the second call for my Department's regional enterprise development fund, I announced an allocation of more than €29 million in funding that will support the regions in delivering on their economic and enterprise development potential. Some 21 projects all over the country received funding. This was in addition to the €30 million in funding in the first call which I announced in December 2017 and also funded 21 projects.

I absolutely acknowledge that there have been significant improvements since the first quarter of 2015 when the Regional Action Plan for Jobs was launched in the mid-west. In fact, I was present when it was launched. My concern is that the improvement has apparently stopped. We need to take action now to ensure employment will continue to grow. In the mid-west there is excellent interaction between higher education and educational establishments generally and employment and industry. It has produced very positive results in recent years. My concern is that it has stopped. The Minister of State, Deputy Breen, recently expressed the same concern in the region. I ask the Minister to contact IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and other bodies under her aegis to ensure any issues that needs to be addressed is addressed in order that we can continue to improve the position in the mid-west.

The mid-west Regional Action Plan for Jobs process has had some notable successes such as the launch of Propeller Shannon Accelerator, a student enterprise network at the University of Limerick, and a Limerick for Engineering showcase, among many other initiatives. Earlier this year I asked the implementation committees for the Regional Action Plan for Jobs, including in the mid-west, to refresh and refocus their plans so as to ensure their relevance and impact from now until 2020. The mid-west is one of the best performing areas in collaborating, attracting investment and jobs. I have been especially struck by the success of Limerick and surrounding areas in the last year. There have been huge job announcements. I recently visited Edwards Lifesciences which has announced the creation of 600 new jobs in Castletroy. More than 122,000 people are employed across 649 IDA Ireland client companies located outside Dublin. Some 45% of all new foreign direct investment jobs created last year were in regional locations. IDA Ireland client companies in the entire mid-west region created 897 new jobs in 2017, an increase of 5% since 2016, with total employment in overseas companies in the region now standing at 17,787 jobs across 128 client companies, which is a wonderful achievement. Looking ahead, IDA Ireland will continue to work with both existing and prospective clients to identify new opportunities for investment in the mid-west and highlight the region's strengths for overseas firms.

I agree with the Minister. I welcome the news that she has asked for the Regional Action Plan for Jobs in the mid-west to be refreshed and refocused. I ask her to maintain contact to ensure this will continue. Things like the Limerick for Engineering showcase and work undertaken by the Limerick Institute of Technology and the University of Limerick are fantastic collaborations with companies. I have seen for myself the precision engineering industry's engagement with Limerick Institute of Technology and the work done by a variety of industries with the University of Limerick. We must make sure it will continue. This is a warning. I urge the Minister to pay particular attention to the region.

On Monday I announced the allocation for the regional enterprise development fund. A number of projects in the mid-west were funded. Some €603,000 has been allocated to BNest Social Initiative DAC, a social enterprise initiative that assists businesses in seeking a social impact to achieve viability and scale in Limerick and the wider region. Some €1.7 million has been allocated to a project in County Clare and the Shannon Estuary providing specialist infrastructure for maritime-related training and field research support. Funding of €2.2 million has been allocated to a digital collaboration centre in Limerick in the mid-west to drive the application of disruptive technologies.

These three projects are in addition to the funding received by the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation and Emerald Aerocluster under call one.

As I stated, the regional action plans for jobs have been very successful. We are asking that they be refreshed and renewed and the implementation committees are coming up with new ideas. The regional enterprise development fund is putting funding behind these ideas and creating jobs. Conscious of the need to ensure we continue to create sustainable jobs, I launched the future jobs plan only two weeks ago.

Departmental Investigations

Billy Kelleher

Question:

56. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to publish an account of the investigative failures identified by a person (details supplied); the steps being taken to address them emanating from the trial of a person; and the action points committed to in the report, Measures to Enhance Ireland's Corporate, Economic and Regulatory Framework, published in November 2017. [50769/18]

Since I tabled the question, which asks the Minister what her plans are to publish an account of the investigative failures in a specific case, a synopsis of the report produced by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, has been published. This is not sufficient. Judge Aylmer's report into the collapsed trials provides clear evidence of the failures of the ODCE. A synopsis of the ODCE report has now been published. What we need to see is the full report of the ODCE because Judge Aylmer's report clearly identifies that the office was insipid, weak and incapable of prosecuting on behalf of the State. The synopsis of the ODCE's report into itself is not good enough and the full report needs to be published. We need to have the truth on this issue.

The account, not the synopsis, of the investigative shortcomings identified by Judge Aylmer was published today on the website of my Department. The purpose of publishing the account is to understand the factors that led to such investigative shortcomings and to take appropriate steps to address them. These steps include ongoing reform within the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, including ongoing recruitment of specialist expertise and the establishment, as announced by Government in November 2017, of the ODCE as an agency to provide it with greater autonomy in relation to staffing resources and ensure it is better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. The general scheme of a Bill to give effect to this decision was considered by Government today.

On 2 November 2017, the Government published the report, Measures to Enhance Ireland's Corporate, Economic and Regulatory Framework: Ireland combatting "white collar crime". A comprehensive set of 28 measures was developed to augment the existing regulatory and legislative framework in the area of corporate, economic and regulatory crime. The implementation of these measures is progressing across three Departments, namely, the Departments of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Justice and Equality, and Finance. There has been considerable progress on the delivery of these actions, with most of them either completed, on schedule or on track to be completed.

Of the actions assigned to my Department, the Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill was signed into law on 25 July 2018. In addition, the Company Law Review Group has submitted its report on corporate governance and I consider that some of the recommendations in this report should be implemented in legislation. These recommendations will be given effect through the general scheme of the ODCE Bill. The transposition deadline for the shareholder rights directive of 10 June 2019 is expected to be met. Submissions were received from a public consultation, which concluded on 9 February 2018. Draft regulations were sent to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on 28 November 2018 for finalisation and settlement. The general scheme of a Bill to establish the ODCE as an agency was considered by Government today and will be published shortly.

The establishment of the ODCE as an agency is intended to enhance the independence of the office by providing it with more autonomy in relation to staffing resources, particularly the ability to recruit the required specialist skills and expertise; build on its existing expertise and experience; strengthen its capability to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law; and build on the organisational and procedural reforms that have been implemented.

This Parliament is being held in contempt. Rather than publishing the report, the Government is providing an account of a report that was commissioned to assess the reasons the longest criminal trial in the history of the State collapsed. All we know is that Judge Aylmer highlighted several inadequacies. On foot of that report, we commissioned from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement a report into itself. We are now being given an account of the ODCE's report. This is a sanitised version when what we need is a full, honest and open account of what happened and why the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement failed to prosecute and carry through an investigation. As Judge Aylmer said, he had to strike out the case because of the incompetence and inefficiencies of the agency. We did not get accountability in the court and we certainly need to get it from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The Government is holding Parliament in contempt by providing a sanitised account of the report, rather than the full report. That is shameful. It should publish the report and be damned.

While the investigation is historical, it is crucial to understand the factors that led to the shortcomings identified by the judge in order that we can take measures to address them. For this reason, after the trial in the case of the DPP v. Sean Fitzpatrick ended in May 2017, the then Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation requested a report from the Director of Corporate Enforcement on the investigative failings that led to the result. However, the Attorney General advised that it is not legally possible for the Minister to publish the report under section 956 of the Companies Act. I cannot publish the report because if I do, I will break the law. That is why we are committed to the publication of an account of the shortcomings identified by Judge Aylmer in this particular investigation. That is the most important issue. The account relates to the role of the ODCE and not the role of other parties involved in the case, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, An Garda Síochána, auditors and solicitors. The focus of this account is on moving forward using the learnings from these shortcomings and taking steps to address them as the Government continues with its commitment to ensure that Ireland continues to enjoy its well-deserved reputation as a good place in which to do business.

One does not have to travel far to see the fallout from the collapse of the banking sector. Week in and week out, one can see people being hauled before the repossession courts because they are unable to keep up mortgage repayments. Sometimes they lose their home and, tragically, some of them even lose their lives. At the same time, the longest criminal trial in the history of the State collapsed and Judge Aylmer was scathing of the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement. We commissioned a report and we now get the sanitised version of what happened. I cannot believe the Minister can come into the House and say the Attorney General advised this course of action. Across the water, we see that the UK Government has been found to have held parliament in contempt by not publishing the attorney general's advice. It is shameful that the full report of the ODCE has not been laid before this House in order that Parliament can discuss it. At this late stage, it should be published. Everybody who has suffered deserves to know why one of the biggest and longest criminal trials in the history of the State, which was related to the banking system, failed miserably. The State is failing again.

To be clear, I cannot publish the report because if I do, I will be breaking the law.

If the Minister gives it to me, I will publish it.

Section 956 of the Companies Act prohibits me from publishing the report.

She should publish the advice in that case.

Those are the facts and I cannot change them. The law is the law and I must work within it, as must everybody else. The next issue is what we should do about what Judge Aylmer said.

The Minister will do nothing.

I will tell the Deputy what we will do. One of the main shortcomings the judge identified was the lack of skill sets in the ODCE for this investigation, which took place between 2008 and 2012. It is clear that the office did not even have one forensic accountant at that stage. It now has eight forensic accountants and a number of other expert staff, including a digital forensic specialist, two enforcement portfolio managers and two enforcement lawyers. The office will also have a digital forensic laboratory. Since 2012, the ODCE has been strengthened considerably and now has a stronger set of skills.

The general scheme of a Bill was considered by Government today. This Bill, which will be published shortly, will establish the ODCE as an independent agency.

It will give it the autonomy it needs to employ the required skill set to undertake its extremely complex work. The Deputy is correct that this was one of the most complex cases in the history of the State.