Proposed Legislation

Questions (25)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

25. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no mention of copyright legislation on the Government's legislative programme; if he expects heads of such legislation to be ready before the end of the current Dáil Éireann term; if his attention has been further drawn to the urgent need for updated legislation in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39097/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The Government's legislation programme published on 17 September relates to the Autumn 2014 parliamentary session and does not contain any reference to legislation on copyright. I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that on 5 August 2014, I published a Bill entitled ''The Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014'' and I look forward to bringing this Bill before the Houses in due course. This Bill deals with aspects of patent and trade mark law but does not touch on the area of copyright.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is currently examining the Report entitled Modernising Copyright completed by the Copyright Review Committee. The Report contains in excess of 60 recommendations covering a diverse range of copyright issues. A number of the recommendations touch also on areas of responsibility outside of my Department's remit and these Departments have also been consulted.

My Department has obtained legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General on a number of recommendations that have the potential to raise significant legal issues and which therefore need to be carefully considered in advance of shaping any proposals for legislative reform. The intention is to complete the Department's analysis of the Report's recommendations with a view to bringing forward proposals for legislative reform for Government's consideration and approval by the end of 2014.

Visa Agreements

Questions (26)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

26. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to create a visa programme for graduates from middle-income countries such as China, Mexico, Brazil, India, and-or Russia, to incentivise visitors from these countries, who could work here, specifically to aid in areas where employers are finding it difficult to source employees with particular skillsets. [39080/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The grant of visas to non-EEA nationals is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality. However, a non-EEA national who wishes to work in Ireland is generally required to hold an employment permit in order to take up employment here. The recently enacted Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014 provides for a variety of permit types to allow skilled migrant workers to enter employment in the State. Key among these is the Critical Skills Employment Permit, which is intended to attract highly skilled non-EEA workers in occupations where there are acknowledged skills shortages, often on a global scale. Certain requirements otherwise applying to the issue of employment permits are waived in order to attract critical skills. These waivers represent a balanced response to the contribution such personnel can make to the development of the enterprises for which they will work; a benefit that ultimately feeds more broadly into our society, through the dissemination of expertise among colleagues and through enterprise growth. The skills for which a Critical Skills Employment Permit may be issued fall into a number of categories – financial, medical, engineering and especially ICT.

In addition to the Critical Skills Employment Permit, the General Employment Permit, which facilitates access to the Irish labour market across a broad range of occupations, subject generally to a Labour Market Needs Test, also specifically targets graduates in occupations designated as highly skilled and in short supply.

It is open to recent graduates from any of the countries mentioned to apply for job openings in such occupations in Ireland at a reduced initial salary threshold. However, I do not intend to target these opportunities at graduates of any particular nationality. The employment permits system has been designed to support Irish and Irish-based enterprise by facilitating the filling of skills gaps through migration in tandem with increasing domestic supply and securing opportunities for those who find themselves unemployed.

Industrial Relations

Questions (27)

Clare Daly

Question:

27. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views regarding the measures he is putting in place to enable former employees gain access to the State's industrial relations machinery, for example in circumstances where issues arise in relation to a pension scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39074/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I fully appreciate the concerns of retired and deferred members of pension schemes whose schemes are being restructured, particularly where such restructuring may impact on existing or potential pension benefits.

The question of whether it is appropriate that pensioner groups have access to the State's industrial relations machinery in pursuing pension scheme grievances has been raised for consideration.

It should be pointed out that the Trustees of a particular pension scheme are already required by law to act in the best interests of all the members. On that basis the trustees have to take account of the interests of the deferred and pensioner members in any proposals they make.

This is an issue to which I have given careful consideration, particularly in light of representations made to me in this regard.

In addition, my Department also consulted with the industrial relations bodies under the auspices of my Department on the issues that arise in the context of collective representation of retired and deferred members of pension schemes in such circumstances.

In this context, it is important to stress that the industrial relations system in Ireland is voluntary in nature both as regards access to the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. Any change to that principle which would put in place a mandated right to be part of the process would alter fundamentally the conduct of industrial relations.

As it stands, active members of pension schemes (through their Trade Unions) regularly engage with the employer to attempt to reach a common position as regards changes to pension schemes whether as a result of a crisis in the scheme or otherwise. In all such cases the outcome of that engagement can only be a collective agreement which cannot, of itself, change the pension scheme. Any proposed changes to the scheme are effected via the mechanisms set out in the trust deeds and rules of the scheme and are at the discretion of the parties so designated in the rules/deeds of the scheme. It may be that it is within this framework that a collective approach could be most effective.

On a separate but related matter, I am actively considering the introduction of access rights for individual workers to the proposed Workplace Relations Commission in terms of pursuing issues relating to terms and conditions of the relevant worker that pertained at the time of retirement.

Construction Sector Strategy

Questions (28)

Dara Calleary

Question:

28. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made in implementing the recommendations of the Forfás strategy for the construction sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39090/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The Forfás report on Ireland's Construction Sector was published in July 2013 and presented an outlook for the sector to 2015, based on known and anticipated demands.

The report included a number of proposed actions aimed at generating more certainty in the domestic market, removing constraints and obstacles, and ensuring that the sector is equipped and capable of delivering innovative solutions in both domestic and overseas markets.

The report provided an important input to the Government's strategy for the Construction sector - Construction 2020 - which was launched in May of this year.

Construction 2020 contains 75 actions for delivery across a number of Government Departments, including the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance, as well as a small number of actions for delivery by my own Department.

These actions cover areas such as increasing housing supply, planning, energy efficiency and sustainability, public infrastructure investment, standards and regulation, financing of projects, competitiveness and internationalisation, and job creation and upskilling. My Department's role in the Strategy is primarily in relation to supporting the capacity-building of indigenous construction companies through Enterprise Ireland, and supporting their expansion into international markets.

The central aim of the Strategy is to triple housing output by 2020, and to add up to 60,000 jobs to the sector over the same period.

The Cabinet Committee on Construction 2020, Housing, Planning and Mortgage Arrears, which is chaired by the Taoiseach, is responsible for monitoring the implementation the actions in Construction 2020.

Employment Rights

Questions (29)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

29. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will intervene in the current dispute between workers and a developer (details supplied) in County Dublin in view of the fact that this is a State contract and bricklayers who began working for a subcontractor on the site last May say they were earning around €107 for a full working week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39092/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I understand that a number of separate, but connected, issues are involved in the dispute at the school building site near Lucan, Co. Dublin, including allegations regarding non-compliance with statutory rates of pay, status of employees and the issue of subcontracting.

As you are aware, it is the remit of Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection to clarify questions regarding employment or self-employment and Revenue to deal with the issuing of certification for the purposes of subcontracting.

Allegations of non-compliance with the National Minimum Wage and employment rights in general should be referred to NERA who will investigate any matter brought to their attention. In addition, the services of the State's industrial relations machinery are available to assist the parties in efforts to resolve the dispute. In this context, I would urge the parties to avail of their services and to engage constructively in the process in an effort to resolve the issues that are in dispute.

I am aware that the striking down of the REA system by the Supreme Court in 2013 has resulted in an element of uncertainty in relation to pay and other conditions of employment in those sectors previously covered, including the Construction sector. This has increased with the move to increased subcontracting by the major employers in the sector.

That is why, having considered the legal advice from the Attorney General on the implications of the Supreme Court ruling, and given the importance of the issue for employers and their employees, particularly in relation to rates of pay and tendering for contracts, I recently obtained Government approval for the drafting of legislation to address the ruling and to provide for a revised legislative framework that would be fully informed by the Supreme Court judgment and be expected, to the greatest extent possible, to withstand constitutional challenge in the future. Good progress is being made on the drafting of the legislation. My colleague Mr. Ged Nash TD the Minister for Business and Employment, will be bringing the Government's proposals for pre-legislative scrutiny to the Oireachtas early next month.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Questions (30)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

30. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the fact that immigrants comprise approximately 13% of the Irish population but are often overlooked as sources of economic growth and the fact that Los Angeles and Chicago have successfully tapped into these communities and supported them as exporters, if he has considered establishing a programme of support, such as export courses, for immigrant-run businesses to assist in the creation of businesses that export back to the immigrant-entrepreneur’s country of origin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39078/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The recently published Entrepreneurship Policy Statement outlines the actions that will be taken to ensure that Ireland is among the most entrepreneurial nations in the world and acknowledged as a world-class environment in which to start and grow a business. Achieving the Government's vision for entrepreneurship requires the development of a strong entrepreneurial culture.

In order to ensure a high quality flow of High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU's), Enterprise Ireland actively promotes Ireland as an attractive location for internationally mobile start-ups to start a technology business. International competition for mobile entrepreneurs is intense around the world with a number of countries offering attractive incentives to very early stage entrepreneurs. Enterprise Ireland established a dedicated team focussed on Overseas Entrepreneurship in 2011 to reflect the drive to bring in new sources of Irish HPSU's which act as an engine of jobs growth. 2011 saw Enterprise Ireland support 6 Overseas Start-Ups, with increases to 12 and 13 approvals to Overseas Entrepreneurs in 2012 and 2013. The target for 2014 is to increase this to fifteen.

In addition to the work underway to attract internationally mobile start-ups to Ireland, existing enterprise support programmes, including the Competitive Start Fund or the New Frontiers Programme, are open to all businesses and entrepreneurs in Ireland, including foreign national entrepreneurs.

- The New Frontiers Programme is aimed at entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas who are planning to establish and run their own company. Participants develop and assess their business proposition as part of the programme, allowing them to make an informed decision regarding the future of their business idea. The ethos here is that participants will go on to establish a sustainable business here in Ireland. However participants are not required to establish a business in Ireland on completion of the Programme.

- The Competitive Start Fund is open to companies who are registered in Ireland and who are headquartered and controlled here. Successful applicants are awarded €50,000 in equity from EI to support them in achieving commercial and technical milestones such as evaluating international market opportunities or building a prototype.

As well as the supports available to companies and entrepreneurs through the enterprise development agencies, foreign national entrepreneurs can also avail of the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP). The STEP facilitates residence in Ireland for foreign national entrepreneurs who have a viable proposal for a High Potential Start-up Company. Candidates for the STEP are required to demonstrate that they have access to €50,000 (+€30,000 per additional founder) in funding to support the establishment of their business in Ireland. This funding could be from the applicant's own resources or earnings or could be in the form of a bank loan, venture capital funding etc. Where entrepreneurs have secured a place on a startup accelerator, the programme allows them to come to Ireland for a year without any need to raise funding.

Regional Development

Questions (31)

David Stanton

Question:

31. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 8 and 11 of 13 March 2014; the strategies and policies in place to encourage enterprise and employment in regional towns; the progress in the development of a regional enterprise strategy to better integrate the efforts of enterprise agencies and regional stakeholders and the development of local enterprise plans by the local enterprise offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39094/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The aim of the Action Plan for Jobs is to support enterprise growth and job creation in all regions of the country. As I pointed out in my reply to the Deputy's questions of 13 March last, our efforts are not specifically focused on regional towns, but on building the enterprise base across the regions.

The Action Plan for Jobs 2014 includes a commitment to develop a framework for Regional Enterprise Strategies that will enable us to better integrate the efforts of the enterprise development agencies and other regional stakeholders in supporting enterprise growth and jobs in the regions. While there is already a significant amount of practical cooperation taking place at local and regional levels between many public bodies, developing a framework in which cooperation can be improved is timely.

I have been actively working on a template for the development of Regional Enterprise Strategies and it is my intention that this framework will be applied initially on a pilot basis to produce action-oriented plans to support enterprise growth and jobs in the Midlands region and the South East region. These pilots will inform any adaptations that might need to be made prior to the framework being applied to other regions.

This approach to regional development will build on regional strengths, drive and support regional entrepreneurship, connect regional enterprise partners in new ways, and enhance the environment supporting enterprise. The output of this process will lead to actions and a subsequent programme of work to drive regional employment and economic prosperity in all regions.

All 31 Local Enterprise Offices have prepared a Local Enterprise Development Plan for 2014 and preparations are underway for comprehensive 2015 Plans. These Plans set out strategic objectives around which the LEOs, as First Stop Shops, will deliver a range of supports, advice and information to the small and micro business community. The Plans include targets for the key metrics of business start-ups, business expansions and jobs created/sustained as well as initiatives to drive entrepreneurship and greater levels of economic activity. In this way, the LEOs will contribute to an improved and balanced local and regional development.

The 2015 LEO Local Enterprise Development Plans will be developed bearing in mind Government commitments to driving forward greater levels of entrepreneurship and job creation and improved regional balance. Enterprise Ireland is working with the LEOs to further develop robust performance measurement indicators and associated metrics.

In addition, the LEOs will continue to work closely with other Government Departments and State Agencies to ensure that the model of State support to the micro and small business community is integrated, informative and highly relevant.

Trade Agreements

Questions (32)

Micheál Martin

Question:

32. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the EU-USA trade agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35203/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

Since the formal negotiations between the European Union and the United States on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) began in July 2013, seven negotiating rounds have taken place. The most recent (7th) Round took place in the US from 29 September to 3 October 2014. The EU chief negotiator's press statement following the end of the 7th Round is available at

http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1158

Reports of previous Rounds, together with background documents, are available on the European Commission's TTIP website at

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/

I am also happy to report that the scope of the EU Commission's mandate to negotiate with the US on TTIP is publicly available since 9 October 2014, and can be found on the EU Council's website at

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/145014.pdf

Trade Agreements

Questions (33)

Mick Wallace

Question:

33. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will address the threat to Irish jobs posed by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations currently under way between the EU and the US (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39300/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

According to assessments made by the EU Commission and other European bodies, a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could over time boost EU GDP by 0.5% per annum bringing significant economic gains as a whole for the EU. This agreement will provide a significant injection of economic activity and consequently bring new job opportunities.

I have indicated in replies to previous Parliamentary Questions some of the tentative and preliminary findings from the study commissioned by my Department, concerning the economic and other impacts and potential opportunities for Ireland. These suggest an additional 1.1% increase in GDP, higher than the estimated GDP gain from TTIP for the EU as a whole. This also means job opportunities for Ireland.

This is an ongoing negotiation. I fully intend to work at securing the best deal for Ireland by the end of these negotiations, bearing in mind our sensitive beef sector, and the opportunities that would be opened up for our important dairy industry.

This trade and investment agreement will build on the deep economic and wider relationship we have with the US, and will create jobs by opening up further opportunities in the US market for Irish business, including agri-business.