Topical Issue Debate

Questions (320)

Micheál Martin

Question:

320. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of Dáil Topical Issue debates submitted to his Department following selection by the Ceann Comhairle since March 2011; the number of topical issues taken directly by him; the number of Topical Issues taken by a junior Minister in his Department; the number of issues taken by a Minister not from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30346/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Twenty five topical issues were selected for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform since March 2011. Twelve topical issues were specific issues related to the Office of Public Works of which ten were taken by the Minister responsible, Minister of State Brian Hayes and two by another Minister. Thirteen topical issues were specific to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform of which I took five, four were taken by the Minister of State at my Department Brian Hayes and four were taken by other Ministers and Ministers or State.

Ministerial Transport

Questions (321)

Niall Collins

Question:

321. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total cost of ministerial transport in his Department in 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; the number of drivers employed in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30558/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In response to the Deputy’s question the following is a table of the total cost of Ministerial transport since the formation of my Department in 2011:

Type of Expenditure

Number of Staff

2011

Amount

2012

Amount

2013

Amount

Minister

Drivers Salaries

2

€31,136.68

€63,811.26

€31,277.94

Drivers Expenses

2

€14,617.36

€24,567.91

€12,266.24

Mileage Payment to Minister

1

€7,959.47

€12,595.03

€6,302.25

Total

€53,713.51

€100,974.20

€49,846.43

Minister of State

Drivers Salaries

2

€36,271.00

€71,663.84

€37,603.32

Drivers Expenses

2

€808.69

€5,754.39

€4,525.64

Mileage Payment to Minister of State

1

€8,173.17

€18,626.50

€10,225.61

Total

€45,252.86

€96,044.73

€52,354.57

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (322)

Niall Collins

Question:

322. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total costs of photography incurred by his Department in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013 in tabular form per event. [30574/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In response to the Deputy’s question my Department, since its inception, used photography services on three occasions.

In 2012 photography services were used for the Public Service Excellence Awards held in Dublin Castle which amounted to €811.52. In 2013 two EUPAN conference events were held in Dublin Castle at a cost of €104.55 each. I understand that the Office of Public Works will be contacting you directly with their reply.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (323)

Niall Collins

Question:

323. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the details and costs of any newspaper supplements his Department has been involved with in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. [30590/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In response to the Deputy’s question my Department did not engage in any Newspaper supplements in any of the three years mentioned.

Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale

Questions (324)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

324. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will release the analysis carried out on the potential sale of the Coillte harvesting rights, which led to the decision not to proceed with the sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30603/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The analysis to which the Deputy’s question refers is confidential and highly commercially sensitive and I do not propose to release it.

Commercial Rates Valuation Process

Questions (325, 326, 327, 328, 329)

Paudie Coffey

Question:

325. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline the basis for deciding which councils should be revalued and the reason certain councils were chosen over others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30733/13]

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Paudie Coffey

Question:

326. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider an amendment to the Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012 similar to section 20 (5) of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, that would impose limitations on the amount by which commercial rates could be raised or reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30734/13]

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Paudie Coffey

Question:

327. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason rateable areas (details supplied) in County Waterford were included by the Valuation Office in the revaluation process in view of the fact that they will cease to exist next May; if this will then mean that the valuation process will have to begin again for these former rateable areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30735/13]

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Paudie Coffey

Question:

328. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider an amendment to the Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012 similar to Part 12 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, that would allow for businesses to avail of a deferral system for businesses that cannot afford to pay their annual rates bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30736/13]

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Paudie Coffey

Question:

329. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider a self-assessment valuation for commercial premises similar to that introduced for residential properties in the Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30737/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 325 to 329, inclusive, together.

The Government approved the publication of the Valuation (Amendment) Bill, 2012 on 3rd August, 2012 and the 2nd stage debate was taken in Seanad Éireann on 11th October, 2012.

Revaluation of all rateable properties across the State is a priority for Government and is a feature of the Action Plan for Jobs 2012. The primary purpose of the Bill is to introduce amendments to the current legislation which underpins the rateable valuation system on which commercial rates are calculated by rating authorities. The proposed amendments to the Valuation Act 2001 are designed to accelerate the valuation process and include new features which provide for the streamlining of the valuation appeals procedures available to ratepayers. As part of the efforts to accelerate the revaluation process, the legislation will also provide the legislative basis for carrying out a revaluation based on self-assessment by ratepayers and also for the external delivery of elements of the valuation process.

The national revaluation programme aims to provide up-to-date valuations for individual properties across all economic sectors that are subject to local authority rates. It is an important programme, especially given the significant changes that have occurred in rental values following the economic downturn of recent years. The revaluation process is the mechanism whereby economic changes that take place in the property market are reflected in the valuation lists for rates purposes and in individual ratepayers’ rates liabilities.

Under Irish law, there is a distinct separation of function between the valuation of rateable property and the setting and collection of commercial rates. The Valuation Act, 2001 sets out the procedures and basis for assessing the valuation of properties for rates purposes. The Act does not deal with liability for rates, including the ability or otherwise of ratepayers to pay the rates, which is an area covered in rating and local government law and which falls outside the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Valuation. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority and do not come within the remit of the valuation system which is solely concerned with the determination of property valuations. Therefore, it is not proposed to include a provision in the Valuation (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2012 which would affect the operation of the rates collection system.

With regard to the possibility of introducing an element of self-assessment by ratepayers to the valuation process, the Commissioner of Valuation has concluded that this may be a viable option and is arranging for a pilot scheme to test this methodology in one rating authority area. However, for the pilot to proceed, a suitable amendment to the Valuation Act, 2001 is required and therefore, it is proposed in the amending legislation to provide the statutory basis which will allow the Commissioner to initiate such a pilot scheme, which if it proves successful could be extended to other rating authority areas as part of the strategy to expedite the delivery of the revaluation programme.

The current national revaluation programme will result in all rateable properties in all rating authority areas across the State being revalued. The criteria for the sequencing of rating authority areas for revaluation and in particular the selection of the three rating authority areas in Waterford, i.e. Waterford City Council, Waterford County Council and Dungarvan Town Council, was based on a number of factors such as the relevant size of the jurisdictions of the rating authorities, the number and concentration of rateable items in a rural/urban setting and the range of industrial and commercial properties which would be generally representative of all economic business sectors. The degree of interface and overlap of the three rating authorities was also a relevant factor as it was considered prudent to carry out a revaluation simultaneously in all these rating areas as the City of Waterford straddles a large rural hinterland which if it was not revalued as part of the programme would have resulted in the creation of certain valuation anomalies at the border interface between the City and County. Once a decision was made to revalue all commercial and industrial properties in Waterford City and County, it would have been incongruous to exclude the properties in the Dungarvan Town Council area from the programme.

The Government’s Action Programme for Effective Local Government, Putting People First, indicates that in the context of reorganisation of local governance structures, the proposed new municipal districts will provide an opportunity to achieve a more coherent approach to rates and charges on a county-wide basis, having regard to funding requirements and the need to support employment and business competitiveness.

The Action Programme proposes rates harmonisation to cater for differences between Annual Rates on Valuation (ARVs) of towns and counties. The approach of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to rates harmonisation will seek to ensure, that harmonisation does not lead to significant net loss of revenue in individual counties with consequential implications for services, and that any change in rates does not impact negatively on businesses and employment. It is important that local government reform drives down costs to business in order to protect existing jobs and sustain our economic competitiveness.

Definitive details, arrangements and procedures in relation to the funding of district level functions, and financial relationships between district and county levels, will be developed in the context of the new local government funding arrangements generally, implementation of the new sub-county system and preparation of the legislation in relation to the reform programme.

In keeping with the principle of separation of function between the valuation of rateable property and the setting and collection of commercial rates the imposition of limits on the amount of rates that a rating authority can raise is generally a matter for decision by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and does not come within the competence of the Commissioner of Valuation whose sole responsibility lies in administering the system of rateable valuation as underpinned by the Valuation Act, 2001. However, in so far as the valuation legislation is concerned, there is a specific provision in the 2001 Act which allows the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to make an order requiring a rating authority to exercise its powers to make rates in such a manner that it does not exceed the amount of rates liable to be paid to it in the first year following a revaluation except for any increase determined by the consumer price index.

Consumer Protection

Questions (330)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

330. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the protections that are in place for persons who purchase products and services from door-to-door sales persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30073/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The main statutory protections for consumers who purchase goods and services from door-to-door salespersons are to be found in the European Communities (Cancellation of Contracts Negotiated Away From Business Premises) Regulations 1989 (S.I. No. 224/1989). These Regulations give effect to Directive 85/577/EEC on Contracts Negotiated Away from Business Premises. They give consumers a right to cancel contracts concluded during unsolicited visits to the consumer’s home or place of work or during an excursion organised by the trader away from his business premises. This right must be exercised within seven days of the making of the contract. The Regulations further specify the information to be provided by the trader on the consumer’s right of cancellation. The Regulations do not apply to contracts with a value of less than €50 and to certain other specified contracts.

Directive 85/577/EEC is due to be replaced by Directive 2011/83/EU. Member States are required to transpose the new Directive by December 2013 and to apply it from June 2014. It will require traders engaged in door-to-door sales to provide a broader range of information to consumers, extend protections to visits by the trader to the consumer’s home or place of work solicited by the consumer, and increase the duration of the period within which contracts can be cancelled from seven to fourteen days. My Department has recently published a consultation paper on the implementation of the Directive, and this can be accessed at http://www.djei.ie/publications/commerce/2013/CRD.pdf.

Transactions by consumers with door-to-door salespersons are also covered by other consumer protection legislation, in particular the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 (S.I. No. 27 of 1995) and the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 on unfair, misleading and aggressive commercial practices.

Microenterprise Loan Fund Application Numbers

Questions (331)

Derek Nolan

Question:

331. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will specify the breakdown of the numbers of females and males who have acquired finance under the microfinance loan fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30287/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

As of the 31st March 2013,149 applications have been received and 116 were from male applicants and 33 from female applicants.

A full progress report on the operation of the scheme from 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2013 can be found on my Department’s website (www.enterprise.gov.ie) and the Microfinance Ireland (MFI) website (www.microfinanceireland.ie). I hope to publish the next MFI progress report by mid-July which will continue to publish details of male and female applicants.

Action Plan for Jobs

Questions (332)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

332. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on whether a review of the Succeed in Ireland project which was launched in March 2012 is warranted as the number of companies taking up the offers and incentives is less than what was expected and hoped for at the time of the launch; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30316/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

Succeed in Ireland is a new, innovative and ambitious scheme put in place by the Government as part of Action Plan for Jobs 2012. The initiative is intended to complement IDA’s efforts to attract more fast-growing emerging companies to Ireland and focuses on generating projects from Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. The Government recognises that, while IDA Ireland does excellent work in attracting large companies to invest, establish operations and create jobs in Ireland, any measures that can extend the reach of IDA, particularly to smaller companies who would consider investing and creating jobs in regional locations, is very positive for Ireland. Many of the projects delivered so far by the initiative will be located in regional towns which would not ordinarily be considered by large companies of the type usually attracted by IDA, and the same is true of many of the projects currently in the pipeline.

The initiative is managed by Connect Ireland under a contract with IDA Ireland. To date 7 projects, with the potential to create 215 jobs, have been approved. 205 of these jobs are in locations outside of Dublin. Connect Ireland are currently engaged with dozens of companies in relation to projects with the potential to create thousands of jobs and further announcements are to be expected in the near future.

A review of the initiative is currently being undertaken by officials of my Department in conjunctions with IDA and Connect Ireland and I hope to be in a position to bring the results and recommendations of that review to Government in the near future.

Topical Issue Debate

Questions (333)

Micheál Martin

Question:

333. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of Dáil Topical Issue debates submitted to his Department following selection by the Ceann Comhairle since March 2011; the number of Topical Issues taken directly by him; the number of topical issues taken by a junior Minister in his Department; the number of issues taken by a Minister not from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30344/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

Since March 2011, 50 Topical Issue and Dáil Adjournment Debates have been submitted to my Department following selection by the Ceann Comhairle.

90%, i.e. 45 of the 50 Topical Issue and Dáil Adjournment Debates submitted to my Department following selection by the Ceann Comhairle were taken by my Ministers of State and me.

In total, I have participated in 19 debates and the Ministers of State of my Department, John Perry TD and Sean Sherlock TD each participated in 13 debates. 5 debates were taken by a Minister outside of my Department.

I endeavour to participate in all debates where policy matters under my remit are selected for debate. Where this is not possible, I request that a Minister of State from my Department participates in the debate on my behalf. On 16 occasions my participation in a Dáil debate was not possible due to overseas travel commitments such as Trade Missions, EU Presidency business and Government meetings.

Copyright Legislation Review

Questions (334, 335, 336)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

334. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on whether the High Court order requiring UPC, Vodafone, O2, Imagine, Digiweb and 3 to block a website (details supplied) conflicts with the stated opinion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30353/13]

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Stephen Donnelly

Question:

335. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following the High Court order requiring UPC, Vodafone, O2, Imagine, Digiweb and 3 to block a website (details supplied), his views on whether Internet service providers need to install and operate technology such as deep packet inspection; if so, the safeguards that are in place to ensure that they are only used for the purpose defined by the court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30354/13]

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Stephen Donnelly

Question:

336. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following the High Court order requiring UPC, Vodafone, O2, Imagine, Digiweb and 3 to block the a website (details supplied) the process and the way in which websites or destinations can be added to this court order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30355/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 334 to 336, inclusive, together.

The written judgement in the case to which the Deputy's questions refer is not yet published so it would therefore be premature to give any view in relation to this judgement.

It is important however to clarify that the terms of Statutory Instrument, S.I. No 59 of 2012, provides only that there is legal clarity confirming the availability of injunctive relief by the Courts where copyright infringement is alleged. This S.I. would not of itself impact on, or be in any way contradictory with cases and judgements arising from that legislation.

In general, the situation in relation to online intermediaries and copyright infringement is that, in certain circumstances, intermediaries are protected from liability arising from their activities involving the hosting, caching of online content or, of acting as a mere conduit of such content. Furthermore, they may not be required to engage in general monitoring on their networks. Under EU Copyright law, as transposed into national law, the owner of copyright in a work may, in respect of that work, apply to the High Court for an injunction against the intermediary whose services are used by a third party to infringe that copyright.

The Court of Justice of the EU has given guidelines in relation to the granting of such injunctions and has stated that the protection of the fundamental right to property which includes copyright, must be balanced fairly against the protection of other fundamental rights, such as the right to conduct a business and the rights of individuals who may be affected by interference in their rights to protection of their personal data or their rights to freedom to receive or impart information.

The Court has pointed also to the need to consider circumstances in which the granting of an injunction could potentially lead to unnecessary cost such as the need to install systems to distinguish adequately between lawful and unlawful content with the result that its introduction could lead to the blocking of lawful communications and that the question of whether a transmission is lawful depends also on the application of statutory exceptions under copyright which vary from Member State to Member State.

Thus, the issues raised indicate the complexity of what is involved in such cases which extends also to those within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources who has overall responsibility for electronic communications and internet policy in general.

Trade Agreements

Questions (337)

Brendan Smith

Question:

337. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline the proposals he has tabled to protect the beef sector within the European Union in the event of an EU/US Trade Agreement being formalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30356/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The report of the EU-US High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth was published on 11 February this year. The Group recommended significantly closer trade relations between the two economies of the EU and the US. It reported on the opportunities for mutually beneficial job creation, economic growth and international competitiveness that would follow from a comprehensive EU – US trade and investment agreement. These opportunities are truly significant, leading to an increase in EU GDP of up to 0.5% for an ambitious and comprehensive final agreement.

Following considerable preparatory work by the Irish Presidency and intensive discussions at the EU’s Trade Council that I chaired on 14 June, EU Trade Ministers agreed negotiating directives that will enable the Commission to formally open detailed talks on this Agreement. The negotiating mandate is broad based and positions the Commission to enter the talks with strong support from the Council to negotiate the best possible deal for Europe. The mandate includes three key components: market access; regulatory issues and non-tariff barriers; and the rules which will govern the operation of any dispute settlement. The scale of opportunity for economic growth and job creation from this agreement are potentially enormous. The TTIP will be the largest bilateral agreement ever negotiated and offers significant opportunity to help our exporters and especially SMEs access the huge US market for goods and services. Studies suggest that 2 million jobs could be created across the developed economies of the OECD if we successfully conclude an agreement that is comprehensive and deeply liberalises the transatlantic marketplace.

The negotiations on this trade agreement have not yet commenced; the first round is set to take place in Washington on 8 July. Consequently it is not possible to quantify either the extent of any US requests for access to the EU market, or the necessary trade off involved in respect of market access in the agriculture sector more broadly or the beef segment in particular. Nevertheless the negotiating directives agreed at the Trade Council on 14 June do include provisions that aim to improve animal welfare as well as ensuring that important issues for consumers, such as continuing restrictions or prohibitions on hormone treated fed food products as well as GMOs will not be changed.

The High Level Working Group recommended the phasing out of substantially all tariffs for all but the most sensitive tariffs. I have supported my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in recognising the beef sector as a sensitive sector of importance for Ireland. As I have done previously in other trade negotiations, I will continue to look for the most advantageous outcome from this trade and investment agreement with the US that promotes our vital economic interests, and that includes the special interests of the beef sector.

Copyright Legislation Review

Questions (338)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

338. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the Copyright Review Committee will make its recommendations as per its terms of reference established in May 2011. [30483/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

An independent Copyright Review Committee was established in May 2011 to examine the Irish copyright and legislative framework to identify areas that might be deemed to create barriers to innovation and to make recommendations to resolve any problems identified.

The Committee conducted an initial consultation during the summer of 2011 and received submissions from a broad spectrum of interested parties. It published a comprehensive Consultation Paper in February, 2012 examining the current legislative framework, setting out issues raised in the submissions and requesting responses to specific questions from those interested in these issues including Rights-holders, Collecting Societies, Intermediaries, Users, Entrepreneurs and Heritage Institutions.

In the region of 180 submissions were received in this round of consultation in 2012 in which many complex and substantial matters were raised. These have now been evaluated and work on the Report is at an advanced stage.

I am aware that my Department previously indicated that the independent Copyright Review Committee expected to present their final report before the end of June 2013. However, this did not prove possible. Indications now are that the Report will be finalised by the Committee by mid-July 2013.