European Investment Fund Agreement Bill 2018: Committee Stage

This meeting has been convened for the purpose of consideration by the committee of the European Investment Fund Agreement Bill 2018, which was referred to the select committee by an order of the Dáil on 6 December 2018. Apologies have been received from the Chairman, Deputy Mary Butler, and from Deputy Lisa Chambers. I welcome the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and her officials to the meeting.

Before we begin I ask members to switch their phones to aeroplane, safe or flight mode depending on the device. It is not enough just to put them on silent mode as this will maintain the level of interference from the committee rooms and impact negatively on the broadcasting. No amendments to the Bill have been proposed. It is intended that we will consider the Bill until we conclude Committee Stage today. Is that agreed? Agreed. We will now proceed to consideration of the Bill.

This is a short technical Bill to enable the Ministers for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Agriculture, Food and the Marine to enter into agreements with the European Investment Fund to facilitate access to finance for qualifying Irish businesses. It will allow us to launch the future growth loan scheme in early 2019, which is a central part of the Government's response to Brexit as it provides businesses the opportunity to borrow for periods between eight to ten years to support long-term capital investment.

Given the exposure of the agrifood sector to Brexit the scheme, which will be 40% funded by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will be also available to primary producers, including those in the seafood sector. The scheme will make up to €300 million available, with loans ranging from €100,000 for SMEs or €50,000 for primary producers up to €3 million, and unsecured loans of up to €500,000. It will be competitively priced with more favourable terms than current offerings in the Irish market, with the interest rate to be agreed after the open call process but it is likely that it will be less than 5%. This is the broad outline of the Bill and I look forward to speaking to committee members about it.

If members wish to table amendments on Report Stage they should indicate this when we come to consideration of the section.

Sections 1 to 5, inclusive, agree to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.