Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second and Subsequent Stages

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome my colleague from Cavan-Monaghan, Deputy Heather Humphreys, to the House. She is here to discuss the Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2019 and we are dealing with all Stages today. I welcome the delegation from Drung primary school in County Cavan. The Minister has some relations who live in the area and I believe some of them attend the school and are in the class that are with us here today in the Gallery. Senator James Reilly also has relations in the area.

His wife's family also comes from that area, which is well represented in the House today, and I, too, come from County Cavan. The students are all very welcome and I hope they enjoy their day.

I thank the Acting Chairman, Senator Wilson, for extending such a warm welcome to the pupils from Drung primary school.

I welcome the opportunity to present this Bill to the Seanad and I look forward to hearing Senators' views and working with all Members of Seanad Éireann and Dáil Éireann to progress this legislation as quickly as possible. The provisions of Part 3 of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019 are set out again in this Bill. The provisions are related to the granting of lending powers to Enterprise Ireland and other provisions related to support for research, development and innovation in several critical sectors. As that Part of the Act has not been commenced, it is prudent and proper now to introduce those provisions in this stand-alone Bill to further support the enterprise base to remain competitive on the global market through the support of Enterprise Ireland, thus limiting the negative effects of Brexit, whatever its nature. These provisions of the Bill were discussed during the passage of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019. The Bill also includes technical amendments to increase the aggregate limit for funding to the enterprise development agencies and to increase the aggregate limit on grants made to Microfinance Ireland, MFI.

The Government is determined to plan and prepare for future growth and the jobs of tomorrow, notwithstanding the very great challenges of Brexit and other international developments on the horizon. Despite all the uncertainty, Irish companies have continued to win sales around the world and we must ensure that we can sustain these success stories and sustain and grow our market share in the UK and other global markets.

Putting this Bill in context in terms of Enterprise Ireland's development and diversification agenda, the Government's ambition, through Enterprise Ireland, is to drive the exports of Irish companies to the eurozone by 50% by 2020, that is, from €4.1 billion in 2016 to €6.15 billion in 2020. There is considerable work under way to drive this ambition.

As part of the global footprint initiative, Enterprise Ireland announced the targeted expansion of its overseas presence in 2019, with 15 new posts across 13 countries to help more Irish companies accelerate their market diversification efforts. This will include new offices in Germany, France, the United States, Denmark, Vietnam and Australia. Enterprise Ireland's international trade mission and events schedule for this year alone covers an impressive total of 207 events in Ireland and international locations to include 73 ministerial-led trade missions and events. This includes missions across the eurozone, North America, the Asia-Pacific region, the United Kingdom, the Nordic states, Central Europe and Latin America.

As outlined in the budget this week, the Government is putting in place an additional contingency package of more than €1 billion for Brexit supports for the coming year. This contingency will ensure that an initial provision of €110 million will be available to my Department and its enterprise and regulatory agencies to provide targeted supports to impacted businesses in the immediate aftermath of a no-deal outcome. The provision will also allow for additional tranches of supports to be provided to meet actual needs as the impacts of a no-deal outcome develop. The targeted no-deal supports developed by my Department will be available to companies of all sizes, including microenterprises, small and medium enterprises or SMEs, the sectors with a focus on food that are most exposed, and manufacturing and internationally traded services, including exporters and importers. In the first instance, given constrained resources, in planning for no-deal Brexit enterprise support schemes, my Department's supports will be prioritised to those firms that will be most impacted by Brexit and that have future potential, in other words, vulnerable but viable firms. In the event of a disorderly Brexit, it is essential that the appropriate mechanisms are in place to provide liquidity support to business.

The provision of a further €10 million to Microfinance Ireland under the proposed amendment in this Bill to the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act 2012 will introduce improvements to the SME and microenterprise lending market, maximising the ability of businesses to access appropriate finance at a time when liquidity will be critical. This legislative amendment will enable loans of between €25,000 and €50,000 to be made available to businesses based on the same Brexit-related eligibility criteria as apply under the Brexit loan scheme. As a further enhancement, MFI will also be able to support the local enterprise office, LEO, network with a combined LEO-MFI Brexit support product to LEO clients, offering funds of up to €100,000, with MFI servicing the first €50,000 and a LEO repayable grant providing the remainder, up to a total maximum of €100,000.

The likely immediate consequences of a hard Brexit - currency movements, supply chain constraints, delays, duties and tariffs - will, in the first instance, place a strain on the working capital position of businesses. The immediate support requirement for these sectors will be financial liquidity, which will be available through the funded supports of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI, Brexit working capital loan scheme, Microfinance Ireland and the credit guarantee scheme, which are available to all sectors. A key message I have constantly delivered to business is the critical importance of putting in place working capital safety nets to deal with short-term liquidity demands, including through the Brexit loan scheme.

Adopting new customs arrangements will be a key challenge for business trading with the UK. In addition to the training programmes being rolled out by the local enterprise offices, by Enterprise Ireland and by Bord Bia, in early August my Department and the Department of Education and Skills through a joint initiative with Skillnet and Enterprise Ireland, launched Clear Customs, a new €5 million customs recruitment and training initiative. This initiative will boost the number of specialists by at least 500 in customs agents and firms.

With regard to Enterprise Ireland's most Brexit-exposed clients, more than 530 companies received approval for funding of €74 million in total in 2018. We need to build on these supports and provide further latitude to our development agencies to provide a wider suite of supports and flanking measures in order to help mitigate the negative effects of Brexit. Through these legislative amendments to section 29 of the Industrial Development Act 1986, as proposed in section 1 of the Bill, we are enabling Enterprise Ireland to help position Irish businesses to be more agile and to be able to respond to global challenges, including Brexit. By enhancing their research, development and innovation capabilities and activity, Irish firms will have a greater competitive advantage and will be able to maintain it by developing cutting edge products and services that are better performing, more efficiently delivered and more effective for their customers.

The amendments remove the 50% cap set in national legislation on the research and development grant rate to allow Enterprise Ireland to fund within permissible EU state aid rules and it allows Enterprise Ireland to pre-fund research and development grants to companies of all sizes. Allowing Enterprise Ireland the flexibility to offer enhanced research and development supports will provide for the development of new or substantially improved products, services or processes and assist businesses to grow and increase employment by remaining competitive. All research and development projects that will benefit from the introduction of these amendments will still have to meet value for money criteria and comply with the Enterprise Ireland conditions related to the offer of research and development grants.

Section 2 is a technical amendment which increases the aggregate capital funding that can be provided to IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland from €7 billion to €14 billion. Primary legislation currently sets a statutory limit of €7 billion on the aggregate capital funding that can be provided to these agencies since 1993. As the combined cumulative totals being prepared for the agencies annual financial statements as of end 2018 amounted to €6.543 billion, it is timely to increase the limit for the total capital amounts that the Minister is empowered to provide to these agencies.

Section 3 aims to permit Enterprise Ireland to lend and participate in certain types of follow-on investments and provides that Government approval is required for investment amounts or loans in excess of €7.5 million for any client. Providing Enterprise Ireland with the powers to facilitate additional lending and investment instruments in certain circumstances, increases the flexibility to support enterprise development and to manage its investments on a par with private sector investors.

Such additional powers will help to preserve the value of the State's investments in these businesses and will assist companies through restructuring or redevelopment programmes that may be critical in the weeks and months ahead.

I emphasise that there are no additional costs to the Exchequer as the costs of these enterprise supports will be accommodated within Enterprise Ireland's existing budget. It is now more important than ever that Enterprise Ireland can respond in an agile and flexible manner as the opportunities and challenges for its client companies change, specifically in the context of a potential no-deal Brexit, and as the investment market changes. It is also important that Enterprise Ireland can flexibly deploy the widest array of interventions that match supports available in other countries, particularly now in a Brexit context.

Section 4 provides for a technical amendment to section 5(2) of the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act 2012. Section 5 currently caps the equity that Microfinance Ireland can receive at €25 million, providing for a grant of €10 million under section 5(1) and a further €15 million under section 5(2). The amendment to section 5(2) of the Act will increase the funding by €10 million, from €15 million to €25 million, to a total of €35 million. This will mean that up to €10 million in additional funding can be provided to enable Microfinance Ireland to provide increased lending in the event of a disorderly Brexit. Section 5 provides, as referred to earlier, for the repeal of Part 3 of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019 as this Part is now contained in this stand-alone Bill.

Section 6 provides for the Short Title, collective citation and construction of the Bill. It also provides for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to commence the Bill, or sections of the Bill, as appropriate.

In summary, the proposed amendments to allow an extension and enhancements to research and development supports aim to help firms that have tight cashflows to commence important research and development projects. Enterprise Ireland can already do this with small companies. This legislative change seeks to remove the statute bar from doing this with a company of any size. I want Enterprise Ireland to be able to help firms to produce improved horticultural or agricultural processes, methods or products, where the research and development results are likely to enhance, diversify or strengthen, directly or indirectly, the processing part of their business. In making the proposed amendment to the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act 2012, we can maximise the ability of businesses to access appropriate finance at a time when liquidity will be critical. The changes to legislation are required to ensure Microfinance Ireland can provide increased volumes of loans to microenterprises impacted by Brexit. Regarding the proposed new investment powers for Enterprise Ireland, this will have a positive impact on Enterprise Ireland's ability to provide a sophisticated level of financial support, tailored to meet the needs of individual client companies and mirroring new investment norms. It will enhance the State's existing suite of enterprise supports in helping to Brexit-proof Ireland by investing in the future of our firms.

I know that much work has gone into this and I have discussed it briefly with the Minister. I know it ties into the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019, which we have discussed at length. It has been a while coming and that is the only downside. We have talked about the measures for quite a while. The Minister has presented it and I know we are trying to complete all Stages today, which is very helpful. I know much of the good work that has been done by Enterprise Ireland and associated bodies to promote Ireland and its businesses. Funding streams are now in place that will be a help in the event of a hard Brexit.

The Minister talks about many different markets and the funding to promote our businesses. The Minister is aware of the carbon footprint of products, which we hear more about every day. When I was in Russia recently, a well-known Irish brand of dairy product was for sale in a Russian supermarket, which caught my eye. I estimate that it was probably half the price of what it would cost in Ireland. I do not know if it was discounted. I do not know if we are just trying to gain more market share. How sustainable are some of these markets with regard to the carbon footprint? Is that taken into consideration when looking at these foreign markets? Do we give much thought to it? We are doing much good work in other countries and I do not want to take away from the good work the Department does. Are we looking at the long-term status of these markets and where we can go with them? Flying something to China or South America is a hell of a long way.

I welcome Deputy Thomas Byrne and his guests to the Visitors Gallery.

Much of what is in this Bill has been presented to the Dáil and to us in the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019. At that time, my colleagues engaged with the Minister about the poor uptake of the range of supports relating to Brexit. I will read into the record what was said. My colleague, Deputy Quinlivan, stated:

Just 81 loans with a value of €17.3 million have been given out under the €300 million Brexit loan scheme, a tiny 6% of the total pot. Only 241 market discovery grants have been approved while just 156 Be Prepared grants have been sanctioned.

My colleague tabled amendments asking for a review of what went wrong. I represent a Border county. Businesses said that many in Border areas were struggling. The supports are obviously available to businesses across the State, not just in Border areas, but businesses in Border areas said that confidence had taken a hit over recent years, that investment opportunities were not what they could be, and taking an additional loan was not something that they wanted to do. That was the anecdotal feedback I received from businesses and groups representing businesses. The Minister said in response that she could not support the amendment because reviews were ongoing and she was engaging with various business representative groups. What has been the outcome of the Department's review of the low uptake? I know the additional capital funding for the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland was going to be provided anyway. I see that in the digest from the Library and Research Service. It is not Brexit related. Other measures would be Brexit related. The Minister is right on the Border herself so I do not need to lecture her about anything related to Border businesses. There is low uptake and we need to understand why.

When I talk to businesses and communities in Donegal, they tell me that they struggle to get by from day to day, trying to keep the business going. It is difficult enough to deal with what is a reality without dealing with what might be a reality.

It is enough dealing with what is a reality rather than what might be a reality. There is a view that Brexit will be sorted out and will not happen. Is it being said that we will cross the bridge when it appears before us? I acknowledge that InterTradeIreland and other organisations have been resourced but I wonder what feedback the Minister has got in her Department in this regard. When this was debated in the Dáil, Sinn Féin called for a Brexit stabilisation fund. Such a fund has been in place in Britain. We were saying the rainy day fund must be postponed because the rainy day is right now owing to Brexit. I welcome the fact that in the budget, the Government set aside, on a precautionary basis, approximately €1.2 to €1.3 billion, much of which will be to support the various sectors of the economy and businesses that could be affected.

I have a wider concern. As we know from the financial crisis, it is dangerous when measures are taken that encourage cycles. If we are entering a cycle of economic difficulty or have a budget that encourages that cycle, that is, a procyclical budget rather than a countercyclical one, such measures are a mistake.

There were interventions in the recent budget. While I welcome the fact that the Government has come around to the idea of what is pretty much a Brexit stabilisation fund, I wonder about the position on more investment in the economy, public services and housing and more capital investment. The capital budget for the Department of Education and Skills has decreased for the first time in quite a while under this budget. Is that a mistake? Are we saying we have a precautionary budget to support businesses, through what is pretty much a stabilisation fund, while having what is almost an austerity budget? It is not a cutback budget but a status quo budget. I wonder whether that is the wrong strategic decision at this time.

The Bill is supported and contains welcome measures. A lot more needs to be done. I would like to know, in particular, the outcome of the Minister's review on the poor take-up of many of the loan funds. What does the Government aim to do with the fund for Brexit supports? We support the Bill. We would look for more.

I welcome the Minister to the House again. Any time she comes here, she comes with Bills that are invariably supported. This is yet another. It is welcome and timely that we increase the funding available to IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland when we face such serious threats owing to what is happening across the water and the likelihood of a disorderly Brexit. I particularly welcome the increase in funding. It is considerable. An increase of €7 billion is a hell of a lot of money.

Let me digress for one moment. We are talking about the Bill but the preceding speaker spoke about the lack of investment in other areas. There is additional investment in justice, health and education. I feel very strongly about the latter as somebody who comes from the constituency with the youngest population. It has more children than anywhere else. Education is critical in preparing us and the young for the future and so we can compete on the world stage, which previous generations have done very successfully. We want our youth to be best armed and educated.

On the Bill, I am especially pleased there is now capacity for shares to be bought as a way of supporting business. I hope it will not only support business but also create a return for the fund so future businesses can also be helped.

Science Foundation Ireland is critical to research and development. Clearly, I am speaking as a doctor but I am aware that when a business is continuing to refine and develop its products to compete on the world stage, nothing stands still. Therefore, research and development are critical to all businesses. I very much welcome the fact that there is to be much greater capacity for money to be made available for it.

I do not intend to delay the House. This Bill is important and welcome and I would like to see progress made on it without any delay. I was very pleased to hear the two previous speakers supporting it.

The Minister is very welcome to the House. I know she has had some interaction on it with Senator Nash. Unfortunately, he cannot be here today. He sends his apologies but he acknowledges the work the Minister has done on bringing the Bill to the House today. No one knows the possible impact of a hard Brexit on the Border counties better than the Minister. She represents and lives in a Border county and is aware of the likelihood of job losses. It is important to put the finances in place to try to support small businesses in facing the pressure of a hard Brexit. Even if there is no hard Brexit, the long-term viability of small businesses in Border counties will be difficult to sustain. It has always been difficult. Further pressures will certainly make circumstances more difficult.

On many occasions, the Minister has touched upon the fact that larger businesses and industries have been able to put resources aside to deal with a possible hard Brexit. I refer to sourcing raw materials from other locations and to the pharmaceutical industry checking standards and criteria and, in some cases, changing its formulae. Even a small change to ingredients in the pharmaceutical industry can have a knock-on effect on packaging, content, and research and development. I am confident that the larger companies have been able to address this and put the necessary resources in place. They have been assisted by the Department and the State in this regard.

In his contribution Senator Mac Lochlainn touched on the fact that smaller businesses have not been able to put resources in place because they are put to the pin of their collar day in, day out. Those concerned may be managing their businesses from Monday to Friday and trying to catch up on the paperwork on Saturday and Sunday. Those are the businesses that are facing the difficulties. In the Dublin region, the issue has been raised with me by small bakeries because the vast majority of their raw material is imported from Britain. In many cases, these businesses will have to change their labelling on their packages, which they do not have resources to do. They have not had time to engage. I am not saying the offer of engagement was not in place. I am saying the businesses just did not have the capacity to really engage. They are saying that if their flour no longer comes from Liverpool and they have to get it from France, the product they will offer to their customer will be very different. There is a certain amount of nervousness. I am not sure what the Minister can do about this because the reality in many cases is that a small firm employing one or two people just does not have the resources and is taking a gamble that politicians will come up with a pragmatic solution to the problem of a hard Brexit. As the day comes ever closer, it is feared that a solution will not be found and that businesses will be chasing to catch up.

On the question of resources, Dublin Port has put in a significant amount of resources. I believe it has spent more than €30 million to ensure the free flow of traffic through the port. My concern, however, is about exports and the land bridge.

I have taken some time to look at the Port of Calais. It has invested resources to help the free flow of Irish exports through the land bridge. Irish exports will go through customs and exit the port via a separate road. If there is a hard Brexit, I would like Irish support staff to be relocated to French ports to assist in ensuring a free flow of Irish goods through those ports. I accept that our European friends and fellow members of the EU are determined to ensure Ireland is assisted, and I am grateful for that. However, in the weeks after Brexit, given that some Irish lorry drivers will experience language barriers, it would be useful to have Irish staff in place in France to facilitate the free flow of goods across the land bridge into the French ports. Let us provide as much information as possible. I know the Minister is determined to do that and will explore every avenue.

I will not delay the Bill. I am grateful we are dealing with it today rather than in a couple of weeks' time, as it means a certain amount of preparation will have been done. I compliment the Minister's staff and officials in the Department on their tireless work in recent months in preparation for Brexit. It is work they probably hoped they would never have to do but they have put their shoulders to the wheel and delivered the legislation on time. I compliment them on the work they have carried out on that.

The Minister referred to research and development. A draft report produced by the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, is winging its way to her. I do not mean to ambush the Minister by raising this issue, on which I do not expect a response. Research and development is key to Ireland's future. Joining CERN as an associate member would present our graduates and scientists with an opportunity to gain experience in international research. We should never underestimate the benefits of networking in research across Europe. While I accept that the committee's proposal would be costly, I want to plant in the Minister's mind the idea that international co-operation in research and development and giving our scientists an opportunity to participate in CERN would be worth considering. It would also send a signal that Ireland is increasing its engagement with our European partners in the area of research.

I wish the Minister the best. I expect this legislation to move speedily through the House. I sincerely hope we will not face a hard Brexit in the coming weeks.

I thank the Senators for their support. It is much appreciated because Brexit is a serious challenge to this country. By working together, we will face up to and deal with this challenge, as we have dealt with other challenges in the past.

Senator Davitt raised the matter of our carbon footprint. Ireland has a small domestic economy but exports a substantial amount of our produce. We have to do that in order for companies to be able to create jobs. Enterprise Ireland has a range of supports in place to help client companies address environmental issues. There is a strong awareness of changing requirements and the need to help our companies to adapt to these changes and continue to sell on the global market. Future Jobs Ireland is the whole-of-Government approach to dealing with the challenges of the future, including in technology. One of the pillars of Future Jobs Ireland is helping companies to transition to the low-carbon economy.

Senator Mac Lochlainn raised the take-up of Brexit supports. He will be pleased to hear that take-up of these supports has increased. The Brexit loan scheme is the working capital facility that companies can avail of. Pressures on liquidity arising from customs and duties will probably create the most pressing need among companies in a no-deal Brexit. Their cashflow will come under pressure and the Brexit loan scheme is available to help safeguard their liquidity. Some 199 loans have progressed to sanction at bank level and €44 million has been provided under the scheme. I encourage companies that have not applied to the loan scheme to apply today in order that they have funding available if their cashflow comes under pressure. It will not cost them anything if they do not use it. They should have this funding in the background. I have been saying that for some time. I understand that companies are afraid to take on additional commitments and borrowings in the face of the uncertainties of Brexit. However, this scheme operates like an insurance policy. Companies should apply to ensure they have funding available if their overdraft comes under pressure.

There is €50 million available under the future growth loan scheme in which there is particular interest because 296 loans have progressed to sanction at bank level. A total of 216 Enterprise Ireland Be Prepared grants have been approved and 194 companies have been approved for funding under the Enterprise Ireland market discovery fund. InterTradeIreland and the local enterprise offices also offer a range of supports, as does Enterprise Ireland. I have not heard any complaints about the supports that are available. If somebody has an issue with them or if they have suggestions on how we can improve them in any way, they should tell us because we want to help businesses.

We have been held numerous Brexit meetings and more than 100 seminars around the country. Over the summer months, I visited Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal and Dundalk in County Louth. These Border counties will be most impacted. We had a meeting in Dundalk about three weeks ago with 300 people present. Last Friday, I attended a Bank of Ireland Brexit seminar in Cootehill, one of a series of such seminars the bank is holding across the country. It was a good meeting with very good speakers, which was attended by about 150 people.

We are setting out for businesses the steps they need to take. We launched the get ready for Brexit initiative some weeks ago, which sets out nine steps that businesses need to take. Some are simple and will not cost money and the whole process can be completed in half an hour. Businesses should take time out to do this. Anyone who cannot make sense of the process can get a voucher for up to €2,250 from InterTradeIreland and use it to pay somebody to assess the risks facing his or her company. That support is available and people should use it. The local enterprise offices also have supports and people should visit their LEO and get the necessary advice. The local enterprise offices and Enterprise Ireland have been rolling out training on customs. Those who are unsure of customs procedures and documentation should attend one of the training sessions being rolled out. Enterprise Ireland's website features an online training course on customs. For companies with significant exports, the clear customs course, an intensive training course being organising through Skillnet Ireland, is being rolled out across the country. Businesses can also avail of grant aid to either employ or part-pay somebody €6,000, up to a maximum of ten staff members. There are a range of supports available and I implore companies to use them.

There has been an increased take-up of supports, because as we get closer to 31 October, the likelihood of a no deal becomes greater. We have been working with companies and we will continue to do that.

Certification and standards were mentioned. Sometimes, it is hard for companies to know exactly what is required of them. The agencies are all available to help. People should pick up the phone and ring them. They are there to help and they will tell people what they need to do. There is work involved. People need to look at their supply chains, where they are getting their goods and where they will get them certified. Many products were certified in the UK and that would not be the case any longer in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Products have to be certified in an EU country. That is something people need to consider. Those are the things that are available in the information provided. People should go to gov.ie/brexit website and they will find everything they need to know.

I referred earlier to the measures that were introduced in the budget in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They include €42 million under the rescue and restructuring scheme. Those supports are available to firms with liquidity or insolvency problems that need to put a complete restructuring plan in place to adjust to whatever the new reality is in a hard Brexit, with equity or loans up to €10 million. Examples of the type of companies we are targeting there include construction products, an engineering business dependent on the UK whose business collapses overnight, or a food processing business that is a large employer in the regions for whom the introduction of tariffs, for example, could result in the closure of the market and there is a need to radically restructure while meeting existing contractual obligations. Many such companies are key to rural economies in terms of a route to market for farmers. Those are the kinds of companies we will be looking at under the rescue and restructuring scheme.

A €45 million transition fund is also available to help businesses adapt to short-term shocks such as disruption to supply chains, loss of market or to adjust their business model, as needed, and change to the new trading reality that a no deal would present. It will be especially important for businesses that find they can no longer access the UK market and they need short-term support as they win new markets and adjust products and services such as engineering sub-suppliers.

There is a €10 million transformation fund, comprising €5 million from my Department and another €5 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to help companies that need to completely change. We supported a company recently that has been working with Enterprise Ireland which changed its processes. Cheddar cheese is especially popular in the UK and the company has moved from producing cheddar to mozzarella. The funds we are putting in place now make sure that companies get the support they need in the event of an unexpected shock. If companies are working with Enterprise Ireland, which they should be, they should be identifying potential shocks and preparing for them. The transformation fund is intended in the event of a hard Brexit and when companies need support they will get it from day one. All of the supports that have been announced in the budget have been approved for state aid by the EU.

Microfinance Ireland has €5 million and the local enterprise offices, LEOs, also have €5 million so between them, they should be able to give supports to any business whether it is a hairdresser or a haulier. They do not have to be exporting. Either body can give support to any business. Each body can give up to €50,000, which is up to €100,000 in total for companies. We must be clear. We will be supporting companies that are vulnerable but viable. Enterprise Ireland are the experts. It will work with companies on a case-by-case basis.

We have also increased the funding to InterTradeIreland to help companies on both sides of the Border. It will play a big role in supporting businesses north of the Border because such businesses, if impacted by Brexit, could have consequences for people living south of the Border because there is a lot of cross movement and people moving over and back and working on either side of the Border.

I think I have covered all the questions. We have invested in Dublin Port. We invested in more staff in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and in Revenue. We have emailed 220,000 companies through the Companies Registration Office to tell them what they need to do and giving them the links to the Brexit supports.

Senator Humphreys referred to the staff in my Department. They have been working extremely hard. A huge amount of work, effort and time has gone into making sure that we have the right support available for Brexit. I acknowledge their work and thank them for it.

Question put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Next Tuesday at 2.30 p.m.

The Seanad adjourned at 1.40 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 15 October 2019.