49. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the additional measures his Department will advocate to address the challenges facing businesses in Border areas. [33515/13]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 46 - 59
Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 38.
Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 17.
Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 36.
49. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the additional measures his Department will advocate to address the challenges facing businesses in Border areas. [33515/13]View answer
North South economic co-operation is and will remain a priority of mine and of the Government. InterTradeIreland, the North South Implementation Body whose remit is to promote increased cross-border trade and business development, has a wide range of programmes to assist businesses on an all-island basis. Examples of InterTradeIreland’s programmes that are having a significant impact are: Acumen, which is designed to stimulate cross-border business for small and medium enterprises in Ireland and Northern Ireland; Fusion, InterTradeIreland’s flagship three-way partnership technology transfer programme; Go-2-Tender, which provides businesses with the confidence, knowledge and skills to tender successfully for public sector contracts; and Innova, a unique cross-border collaborative Research & Development programme offering companies an opportunity to accelerate new product, process or service developments through partnering with a company in the other jurisdiction.
InterTradeIreland have adapted their offering in recent years, as a result of economic circumstances, to meet the specific needs of SME’s, North and South. Their key programmes are now focused on promoting trade and innovation activities among SME’s which it is hoped will lead to an increase in the number of firms engaging in cross-border business and exporting to the other jurisdiction, and taking innovative steps to trading themselves out of difficult operating environments. This approach has proved very successful. For example, in 2012, there were 92 First Time Innovators firms (against a target of 35) and 67 First Time Exporters firms (against a target of 50) as a direct result of these firms participating in InterTradeIreland’s programmes.
InterTradeIreland is co-funded by my Department and its counterpart in Northern Ireland, and I am glad to say that we have managed to avoid curtailing InterTradeIreland’s budget in recent years despite ongoing economic pressures. I believe that the Body’s unique all-island offering to SME’s provides specifically tailored support for SME’s that want to engage in cross-border trade.
In addition to the work of InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland works closely with its counterpart organisation, Invest Northern Ireland, on a range of initiatives to benefit enterprise development in the border region. These include activities such as Bridging the Border Seminars/partnering events, which are designed to promote joint opportunities between firms, North and South, in areas such as licensing and commercial agreements, sub-contracting, technical co-operation and business partnerships. These are practical measures that can help address barriers to firms looking to trade in the other jurisdiction.
Another useful tool in assisting businesses in border areas is the INTERREG Programme. My Department has co-funded some 28 enterprise projects, to a value of €58m, under this EU Programme with the N.I. Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment over the last number of years. This funding has assisted local micro projects in the border region to get up and running, through the provision of mostly training and capacity-building. It is hoped that the next strand of the INTERREG Programme will see projects being approved that have a more economic development focus.
Increasing cross-border trade and the development of the economy in the border region will continue to be a key priority. My Department will continue to work with the enterprise agencies, including InterTradeIreland, on developing appropriate supports that encourage cross-border trade.
51. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the timeline for the joint industry Government task force on the Big Data sector; its potential for job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33567/13]View answer
56. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the progress made in developing the two Big Data pilot projects within the public service; if the first formal meeting of the joint Industry/Government task force has taken place; any decisions that were made; and his views on the way he sees this industry creating jobs. [33518/13]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 56 together.
The overall ambition associated with the Big Data disruptive reform is to “build on existing enterprise strengths to make Ireland a leading country in Europe in Big Data and data analytics”. It is estimated that data collected and generated by companies and governments is growing by approximately 40% per year. An independent study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) recently identified the potential demand by businesses in Ireland for a total of 6,000 new deeply data analytics roles by 2018.
In that context, the Government has agreed two specific deliverables in the Action Plan for Jobs 2013 which are associated with the Industry-Government Taskforce:
- To oversee a mapping of existing and planned initiatives across Government and the private sector that can contribute to Ireland’s reputation as a leader in the areas of Big Data and data analytics (Q3 2013);
- To identify and commence at least two new pilot initiatives whereby data analytics will be employed to address specific challenges delivering economic impact and/or improved public services (Q3 2013).
These actions are complemented by nine other actions for delivery in the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs relating to areas such as R&D investment for data analytics, investment in high performance computing, initiatives around education and skills for data analytics, standards development and Open Government. On 1 May 2013, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and I met with the six Government-appointed industry partners to discuss the mechanisms for taking forward the Big Data disruptive reforms. At this meeting, it was agreed that:
- an Assistant Secretary General in my Department would lead the public sector engagement on the Big Data disruptive reform;
- Mr Liam Casey, Ms Heather Reynolds and Mr John Herlihy would assist as industry partners in helping to deliver the Big Data disruptive reform.
To progress the initiative, it was agreed to form an ad hoc working party as a precursor to the establishment of the formal Industry-Government Taskforce on Big Data and Data Analytics. The working party, which will be chaired by my Department, will comprise representatives of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Health, Forfás, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, NSAI and the three industry partners (or nominees). In line with the commitment in the Action Plan for Jobs 2013, an immediate next step is to transition from the ad hoc working party mechanism to the more formal Industry-Government Taskforce on Big Data and Data Analytics.
Membership of the Taskforce is based around a core group with the flexibility to co-opt additional members from the public and private sector to reflect specific areas of focus and sectoral expertise. The core group consists of the Assistant Secretary General of my Department with:
- The Government Chief Information Officer from Department of Public Enterprise and Reform.
- Senior officials nominated by Central Statistics Office, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, National Standards Authority of Ireland.
- Government appointed Industry Partners or nominees.
It is envisaged that the full membership of the Taskforce will be announced in the coming weeks, coinciding with the first formal meeting of the Taskforce in July.
52. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the timescale for completion of the consumer and competition Bill. [33517/13]View answer
Work on the drafting of the Consumer Protection and Competition Bill is progressing and I expect to publish the Bill during Q3 2013.
53. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which this country remains competitive for foreign direct investment; the extent to which any particular issues have been identified as obstacles in attracting such investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33521/13]View answer
The attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of Ireland’s economic success. Foreign owned firms contribute substantially to Ireland’s exports, jobs, expenditure in the Irish economy and to Exchequer funds. FDI plays a key role in stimulating the development of new sectors in Ireland, in enhancing our research, development and innovation performance, in contributing to balanced regional development and in accelerating the achievement of critical mass within sectors.
Ireland has earned a strong reputation for being able to compete globally for FDI. The IBM Global Location Trends Report 2012 ranks Ireland as a top location in world for Inward Investment. Ireland is listed:
- First in the world for inward investment by quality and value.
- First in Europe for jobs created in Research and Development.
- First in Europe for investment in the Pharmaceutical sector.
- Second in Europe and fourth globally for the number of investment jobs per capita.
Ireland’s favourable tax regime and financial support systems for research and development underline the Government’s determination to continually enhance the country’s attractiveness to overseas companies. The Government acknowledges that ambitious national job creation targets can only be achieved with the active co-operation of a highly skilled workforce allied to world class research, development and innovation (RD&I) facilities. Today, Ireland’s advanced manufacturing technologies deliver continuous innovation and sustainable success in high-value manufacturing.
IDA Ireland has indicated that there are a number of factors which are considered by potential investors before deciding to locate here. These include:
- A pro-business and technologically advanced environment.
- An attractive corporate tax rate.
- An educated and talented workforce.
- A blend of appropriate skill sets.
- Access to world class infrastructure - road access to key cities, ports and international airports.
- A range of affordable, state-of-the-art property solutions
- A track record of success coupled with the right attitude and ambition of its people.
In seeking to win FDI, IDA constantly promotes the availability of these factors to potential investors.
Amid significant economic challenges globally and locally, IDA Ireland achieved a strong FDI performance in 2012. There were 145 individual investments, with over 40% from companies coming to Ireland for the first time. 12,722 gross job gains were generated with 6,570 net new jobs gains across a broad range of sectors. Helping FDI clients to transform their operations within Ireland has also led to a significant reduction in employment losses, producing a strong year overall. Despite this success, Ireland faces a highly competitive landscape, with notable strong competition for FDI arising from the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland, in particular. Key global markets are slowing down, particularly in Europe, which is a key focus for IDA’s existing and potential clients.
IDA Ireland has assured me, however, that there are definite opportunities for growth in the IT/technology sector, in specific areas of financial services, in life sciences, in social/digital media and in sectors where consolidation is taking place on a pan-European basis. The IDA’s global team is determined to pursue these opportunities vigorously in 2013 in order to ensure that another 132 new investment projects, which will yield another 6,000 net new jobs, are won in accordance with the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs 2013.
54. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of health and safety inspections undertaken last year and the target for inspections in the coming year. [33513/13]View answer
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the national statutory body with responsibility for enforcing occupational safety and health law, promoting and encouraging accident prevention, and providing information and advice to all companies, organisations and individuals. The Authority is also the national Competent Authority for REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) and other chemicals legislation. It operates under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Chemicals Acts 2008-2010. The aim of the Authority is to make occupational safety, health and welfare an integral part of doing business in every Irish workplace and to ensure that the manufacture and use of chemicals in Ireland do not affect human health or the environment.
One of the ways the Authority attempts to achieve its aim is through the implementation of its national programme of workplace inspections. Details of the Authority’s national inspection programmes are outlined in its annual Programmes of Work, which are submitted to me as Minister for approval and published on the Authority’s website (www.hsa.ie). The Authority carried out 13,835 workplace inspections in 2012 and aims to carry out 12,850 such inspections in 2013. Further details on the Authority’s 2012 inspection programme, including information on the numbers of inspections (including investigations) undertaken in different sectors of the economy are available in its 2012 Annual Report, which is available to download at www.hsa.ie. Similar information in relation to the sector-by-sector breakdown planned for its 2013 Programme of Work is also available on the HSA website.
Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 51.
55. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if consideration will be given by his Department to survey access to broadband by micro and small enterprises and its impact on job creation. [33509/13]View answer
Access to broadband in Ireland is a policy matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, T.D. who has recently announced the launch of a nationwide Broadband Mapping Project. This is a key step in delivering the National Broadband Plan which commits to broadband speeds of 30Mbps and, where possible, higher speeds to all parts of Ireland through a combination of public and private investment.
The mapping exercise will help identify where broadband services are already in place or planned by service providers in the coming three years. It will identify the gaps in provision that need to be filled with state-supported investment. It will look at broadband availability in each locality and therefore will encompass all broadband users, both households and businesses. My Department is supportive of this initiative and looks forward to the outcomes of the exercise, particularly in the context of the availability of broadband for businesses.
My Department is also working closely with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in relation to an initiative in the Action Plan for Jobs to increase the number of businesses trading on-line. The objective of this initiative is to achieve a step-change in the number of businesses, and particularly small businesses, trading on-line for the first time. It will provide a voucher of up to €2,500 to companies to support them in commencing to trade on-line. My officials are working with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on finalising the arrangements for the scheme which will be run on a pilot basis in 2013 prior to a wider roll-out in 2014.
57. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he will make public his response to the Labour Court recommendations on the review of the JLCs. [33493/13]View answer
The new Section 41A of Industrial Relations Act 1946 (inserted by Section 11 of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012) provides that reviews of each Joint Labour Committee (JLC) will be carried out by the Labour Court, as soon as practicable after the commencement of the Act, and at least once every 5 years thereafter. In this context, the Labour Court appointed Ms Janet Hughes to undertake the review of the 10 existing JLCs on its behalf. The Review was completed on 12 April last.
The review assisted the Labour Court’s deliberations as to whether any JLC should be abolished, maintained in its current form, amalgamated with another JLC or its establishment order amended and the Labour Court is required to make recommendations to me to this effect. The Labour Court submitted its report of the review and recommendations in relation to the 10 existing JLCs to me on 22 April last. The report is detailed, comprehensive and complex and required careful examination and consideration.
Since its receipt, the Supreme Court, on 9 May last, issued its decision in relation to the constitutionality of Registered Employment Agreements (McGowan and others v The Labour Court, Ireland and the Attorney General). I was concerned that this decision may have had implications for Joint Labour Committees and Employment Regulation Orders. With that in mind, I sought legal advice on this point, which I am currently considering. It is my intention to publish both the Report and my proposals in the very near future.
58. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the level of the value of the take-up of credit guarantees as a percentage of the maximum value of €150 million for last year; and the target drawn down of guarantees for the coming year. [33511/13]View answer
The Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) which commenced operation on 24 October last was designed to be capable of facilitating up to €150m of additional lending per annum. For 2013 to date 4% of this capacity has been utilised with 49 loans facilitated, valued at €6.4 million. I intend to publish the 2nd quarter Progress Report on the Scheme on the Department’s website shortly. I expect this to show slow but real progress in comparison with the published Progress Report for 2012, where there were six live guaranteed facilities resulting in €582,000 being approved through the scheme.
From the outset, I have emphasised that the potential utilisation figures used are estimated and that the exact requirements of the Scheme would be demand led. Utilisation could be lower or higher depending on SME credit demand needs and to date this has been lower than expected. I would like to repeat today that the figure of €150 million is the maximum lending capacity. It is not a target for the Scheme.
When the Scheme was launched in October 2012, I made a commitment to review the Scheme after 12 months of operation. However, due to the low level of utilisation of the Scheme, I have brought forward the review process to examine ways to improve future performance and take-up. An external consultant will be selected very shortly to commence the formal review of the Scheme which I hope will be completed by end Quarter 3. Any changes to legislation arising from the review will take place after that date.
59. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider regulation underpinning consumer law or meaningful legislation to protect the consumer in view of the practice by retailers and multiples, particularly from the UK, of increasing substantially the price of their goods far in excess of the exchange rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33278/13]View answer
The price of goods and services as and between Member States of the European Union can differ for a variety of reasons. Insofar as prices in this jurisdiction are concerned, the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 639 of 2002) require traders to indicate the selling price in Euros of products offered for sale. The Regulations, which are enforced by the National Consumer Agency (NCA), do not prevent traders from indicating the price of those goods in other currencies such as Sterling, so long as the Euro price is indicated.
I am aware that some goods in addition to carrying the mandatory Euro price also carry a Sterling Price indication. I also am aware of concerns that have been raised in the past in relation to differentials as and between the sterling and euro prices for certain dual priced goods. Where there is a significant difference between the euro price and the sterling price for a good, it is primarily a matter for the trader concerned to explain to his/her customers why he/she is imposing such different prices. I would encourage any consumer who is concerned in relation to the differential between the euro and sterling prices for goods in particular retail outlets to demand an explanation from the retailers concerned as to the reasons for such differentials. If consumers are unhappy in relation to the differential in prices or the explanation for such differentials, they may wish to seek better value elsewhere.
In this regard the National Consumer Agency, as part of its statutory mandate, conducts regular price comparison surveys to provide consumers with information as to the different price offerings that are available in the marketplace. Evidence available to the Agency shows that consumers have become much more discerning in relation to their shopping habits, are actively seeking better value for money and that price is becoming a pre-eminent determinant in relation to where they do their shopping. Consumers can and are demonstrating their willingness to positively seek out value and are not prepared to give their custom to traders, who they do not believe offer value for money.
As regards general price comparisons between this country and the UK, the most recent Central Statistics Office’s Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices, which is the accepted measure for comparing price inflation across the EU, found that prices in Ireland had risen by 0.5% in the 12 months to April 2013, whereas prices in the UK had risen by 2.4% in the same period. It is clear, therefore, that we are becoming more competitive price wise in comparison with the UK. This improvement in our competitiveness is most welcome, not least by consumers, and follows on from the specific measures taken by the Government to restore national competitiveness. The Government is fully committed to pursuing the competitiveness agenda, so as to ensure that Irish consumers receive and can expect to receive a fair deal in the goods and services that they buy.