Business Regulation

Questions (20)

Joe McHugh

Question:

20. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the importance of reducing the administrative burden on businesses as a means of driving commerce here; if he will refer specifically to tax compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50487/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

My Department and its Agencies continue to focus on reducing administrative burdens on business, with a reduction of 25% already having been achieved; this amounts to annual potential savings for business of over €207 million. Details of all the initiatives making up this total are available on my Department’s website. Successful initiatives resulting in significant savings include:

- In Company Law, savings of €82 million per annum have already been realised, more than €33 million of which are due to the work of the Companies Registration Office (CRO), as companies can submit their annual returns online via the CRO website and can now use digital signatures for the B1 Form and Accounts.

- In Health & Safety Law, a total of €124 million in annual administrative savings for business has been delivered by the HSA via two key projects: the BeSMART online tool for preparing the Risk Assessment and Safety Statement (€60m), and the SMP20 Guidelines (€64m), which assist construction firms with fewer than 20 employees in establishing and maintaining an effective safety management system.

- In Employment Law, savings of €1.2 million were realised by simplifying online procedures and forms.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that reducing the administration burden on taxpayers and making it as easy as possible for them to be compliant is one of their key corporate objectives. In recent years the Revenue Commissioners have also reduced the administrative burden on business by 25% through a number of initiatives, saving the business community over €85 million per year. I am also advised that in the Revenue Statement of Strategy 2011-2014, one of its core strategic priorities is to make it easier and less costly for taxpayers to comply and Revenue is constantly looking for opportunities to drive down compliance costs for business.

The success of strategies is borne out to some extent when comparing this country against other jurisdictions. One such benchmark study is the World Bank/PWC Report “Ease of Paying Taxes 2014”. In this study, out of 189 countries, Ireland ranks in 6th place and 1st in the EU. The level of voluntary compliance is also a valid indicator of the effectiveness of a tax administration. Revenue’s strategies include consulting with stakeholders, reducing complexity and providing good quality services to make it as easy as possible to comply. This approach, as evidenced by the table, has resulted in very high levels of compliance.

Tax

2012

2011

PAYE/PRSI

95%

95%

VAT

91%

91%

Preliminary Income Tax (Non PAYE)

98%

97%

Capital Gains Tax

94%

91%

Corporation Tax

98%

91%

Relevant Contracts Tax

86%

85%

We also need to continue to listen to business, especially SMEs and micro-enterprises, and find out where regulation is most burdensome. The High Level Group on Business Regulation, chaired by Deputy Perry, the Minister for Small Business, acts as a standing dialogue between business and Government, and looks for solutions to specific administrative burden issues brought to its attention by the business members.

A key part of reducing regulatory burdens is better communication; my Department seeks to improve how information on regulation is communicated, for example through its businessregulation.ie portal which I launched in 2012. This website brings together in one place many strands of regulatory and compliance information. A further successful recent initiative was the ‘Taking Care of Business’ event in Dublin Castle, which brought 500 attendees into direct contact with over 20 Agencies and Departments.

Trade Agreements

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 8.

Questions (21)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

21. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on whether an investor-state dispute settlement process will be part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; if he will be in favour of this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48814/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The EU Council of Ministers gave a mandate to the EU Commission to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The scope of that mandate is wide ranging and allows the EU Commission to enter into negotiations with the US on many issues, including Investor-State dispute settlement mechanisms. It is very early days in the negotiations, and far too early to say whether, and if so, in what form, any investor-State dispute settlement mechanism might feature in an eventual TTIP Agreement. I am conscious of the issues arising in relation to Investor-State dispute settlement. It is clear that Member States must retain the right to regulate in key public policy areas, such as public health, environmental and social protection, and this must continue to be the case.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 8.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

Questions (23)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

23. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide details of the recently announced €125 million Growing Capital Ireland Fund; and the specific industries or sectors which have been earmarked as beneficiaries under the fund. [50488/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

On 4 November 2013 I announced the establishment of a new fund of €125 million which will be managed by MML Growth Capital Partners Ireland. This Fund was the first announcement under the Development Capital Scheme. The establishment of the Development Capital Scheme is a critical action under the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs and has the objective of increasing the availability of risk capital and closing the ‘equity gap’ experienced by SMEs seeking risk capital in the region of €2 million - €12 million.

The Development Capital Scheme forms part of the suite of new finance measures put in place through the Action Plan for Jobs to increase the availability of funding for SMEs. A total of €75 million in funding has been made available through my Department for the Development Capital Scheme with the aim of leveraging a minimum total of €150 million in additional funding from the private sector. Under the Scheme, commitments were made to 3 funds that will provide equity, quasi-equity or debt of between €2 million and €12 million to established investee companies. A further two funds will be announced in the near term.

Each of the funds established under the Development Capital Scheme is aimed at providing funding for the mid-sized, mostly export-oriented businesses with clear growth and development prospects. The MML fund is a general fund which has no particular sectoral focus. It will target investments opportunities in a wide variety of growth orientated sectors including manufacturing, technology, engineering, food, life sciences, services and electronics. Enterprise Ireland invests in these funds on the same terms as the private sector. The investment managers are responsible for making investment decisions within a clearly defined investment strategy over the life time of the fund. I look forward to seeing investments in Irish companies in the near term.

Employment Data

Questions (24)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

24. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the net increases in employment in the financial services and manufacturing sectors since the Government came to power; and progress towards the targets set for employment in these sectors. [50484/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The manufacturing sector in Ireland suffered significant job losses in the period 2003 to 2010. Accordingly, I requested Forfás to undertake a study of the sector. The resultant Strategy - Making it in Ireland: Manufacturing 2020 sets out the actions needed to address various issues, building on the steps already taken by this Government to improve our international competitiveness. Key actions are proposed across a range of areas, including access to new funding, management training and support, costs reduction, technology adoption and the implementation of a National Step Change initiative.

Despite the losses in earlier years, there are now 205,700 people directly employed in manufacturing, and a similar number of people employed indirectly: the total supported within the sector is therefore just over 400,000. In the years 2011 and 2012 there was a net increase of 3,700 jobs in the Manufacturing sector. The Forfás Strategy sets a target to create an additional 20,000 jobs in the sector by 2016.

With regard to the International Financial Services Sector, the Strategy for the International Financial Services Industry in Ireland, published by the Department of the Taoiseach in 2011, calculated that there were 33,000 people employed directly in Ireland in international financial services (i.e. excluding banking and related financial services activity in the domestic sector) at that time. The Strategy sets an objective to increase employment in this sector by 10,000 by 2016 and a range of measures are proposed. Implementation of that Strategy is being driven by the IFSC Clearing House Group, which operates under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach.

The IDA continues to pursue the attraction of foreign companies in this sector and the recent announcement by Deutsche Bank that they will establish 700 new jobs in Dublin is evidence of the success of these efforts. Agency supported firms in this sector increased their employment by 1,803 in the two years up to the end of 2012. The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 included a series of actions to address both the Manufacturing and International Financial Services Sectors. By implementing the 2012 and 2013 Action Plans for Jobs and the new 2014 Action Plan for Jobs, to be developed in the New Year, the Government is confident that further growth in employment in both sectors will be achieved.

Jobs Protection

Questions (25)

Denis Naughten

Question:

25. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress to date on protecting employment at Covidien and Alkermes, Athlone, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50402/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

Both Covidien and Alkermes are still in the process of implementing redundancy programmes at their facilities in Athlone. While 100 redundancies, to be implemented over a two year period, were announced at their facility in September 2011, Covidien Athlone remains an important part of the Covidien Group in Ireland, with over 600 employees, including a Research and Development group that is solely responsible for the design, development and the resulting new product introduction of a range of products. It has been responsible for a number of key product launches in its area.

In relation to Alkermes Athlone, reductions of approximately 100 to 130 staff, from a workforce of 420, were announced earlier this year, to take place over a two-year period as older product lines are phased out. This process is on-going through a combination of natural attrition, voluntary redundancy and compulsory redundancy. The Athlone facility will continue to play a strategic part in Alkermes’ future business, and significant investment is planned to be made at the site over the next number of years which will allow Alkermes to focus primarily on the manufacture of newer, advanced pharmaceutical product lines. World-class development and manufacturing activities at the plant will remain robust and it will continue producing global pharmaceutical products.

It is very unfortunate that these redundancies had to be initiated but you will appreciate that the Pharma sector is going through significant challenges worldwide and parent companies need to make strategic decisions for their future, which can involve reducing job numbers. However, both companies retain very significant operations in Ireland.

New product innovation drives the future of the Life Sciences business, and Ireland continues to provide a very attractive offering to these companies particularly in terms of access to highly-trained medical technology research and development experts and world class third level institutions. Access to highly skilled personnel, with expertise and experience in quality-driven, advanced manufacturing techniques is hugely attractive to companies investing here. In this regard, there have been some significant investment announcements in Ireland by companies in the Life Sciences area, particularly in the Pharma/Biopharma sector. Examples of these announcements include:

- Sanofi (Waterford, Feb. 2013) to invest €44 m in Genzyme’s biotechnology campus in Waterford.

- Novartis (Dublin, Apr.2013), the world’s second largest pharmaceutical company, is to establish a Business Services Centre in Dublin. The company now has four sites in Ireland.

- Vistakon Ireland (Limerick, Jan. 2013), a company which designs, manufactures & makes soft disposable contact lenses, announce plans to invest over €100m in expansion of its manufacturing operations in Limerick, up to 100 new jobs.

In 2012 foreign-owned companies based in Ireland employed 21,641 people in the chemicals sector compared to 21,499 in 2011 (+ 0.7%) and 24,625 people in the medical devices area compared to 23,627 (+ 4.2%). Following a decline in growth by foreign-owned companies from 2008 to 2011, there are now positive signs of growth in these areas. Based on this positive trend it is expected that there will continue to be future gains for Ireland in the Life Sciences sector.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Questions (26)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

26. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will detail any consideration of reviewing the targets for microenterprise loans and credit guarantee schemes in view of the take-up of these programmes to date. [50481/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I am required by Section 22 of the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act 2012 to commence a review of the operation of this Act not later than 2 years after the date of its passing (July 2014). Notwithstanding this, the Microenterprise Loan Fund Scheme has been kept under constant review by the Executive and Board of Microfinance Ireland, and by my Department, and it improved throughout its first year of operation. Improvements include: applicants can now self-certify informal/verbal bank declines and Microfinance Ireland now accepts applications directly. While recognising that the Scheme is demand-led, Microfinance Ireland is committed to reaching the long term objective for the Scheme which should see, the €10 million Exchequer allocation, supplemented by €15 million bank borrowing in tranches of €5 million over the following years generating €40 million (€8m per annum) in loan expenditure and creating 3,800 jobs over a 5 year period.

I made a commitment to review the Credit Guarantee Scheme after 12 months of operation. However, as take-up continued to be slow, the Scheme was recently independently reviewed to help improve the overall Scheme for all businesses. The independent review has given us a view on what the likely annual take up of the Scheme can be and some changes we can make to the Scheme, to increase participation. My Department has been consulting with the Irish Banking Federation to ascertain the likely level of take-up of any revised scheme. I am awaiting a final assessment from the Review Steering Group, chaired by my Department, and plan to bring my findings and conclusions to Government and the Oireachtas, as soon as possible thereafter. It is likely that the Credit Guarantee Act 2012 and the Credit Guarantee Scheme 2012 will require amendment. This complex work is progressing as quickly as it is practicable.