Legislative Reviews

Questions (181)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

181. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to update the Succession Act 1965 in order to simplify and expedite the administration of estates particularly in non-contentious cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41015/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The position is that the Courts Service recently undertook a broad review of the operation of the Probate Office and District Probate Registries. The review involved a wide consultation exercise, including consulting with legal practitioners and customers. The results of the review, which have been endorsed by the Board of the Courts Service, contain a number of recommendations for more effective and efficient delivery of the probate service.

The recommendations include the development of a new ICT platform for the Probate Office and District Probate Registries which will enable online filing of applications for grants of probate and grants of administration. I am informed that a Project Board to oversee the design and implementation of the new platform will be established in the near future.

The Review has also recommended that certain functions should be transferred from the Probate Office to the District Probate Registries and draft Rules of Court are in preparation with a view to giving effect to this recommendation. The intention is to free up resources in the Probate Office in Dublin in order to process more grants of probate and administration.

I should add that additional resources have been allocated to the Probate Office in recent months and this has led to a significant reduction in processing times for applications for grants of representation. At present, the processing time for a solicitor's application is approximately 5 to 6 weeks, while in the case of personal applications the waiting time is 10 to 15 weeks.

While I have no plans to introduce amending legislation in this area, the operation of existing legislation is kept under review in my Department.

Garda Station Refurbishment

Questions (182)

Seán Fleming

Question:

182. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if funding will be approved for the refurbishment of a Garda unit (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41020/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As Minister I have no direct role in the matter.

I can confirm that accommodation for the Garda Water Unit in Athlone is included in the Garda Station Building and Programme 2016-2021.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the OPW has developed a scheme to provide for suitable accommodation for personnel attached to the Garda Water Unit, which will cater for the needs of the Water Unit both in respect of office facilities as well as all other accommodation requirements related to their role and function.

I understand from the Garda authorities that the main contract in relation to these works is currently out to tender. The next phase will be for the OPW to engage in tender assessment and evaluation. I am informed that it is not possible at this stage to advise on a specific commencement date for the works in question, until such a time as tenders are assessed and evaluated.

Garda Vetting

Questions (183)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

183. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the rules under Garda vetting will be amended to allow a person that has been vetted to be issued with a card that proves they have been vetted (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41027/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the primary purpose of the employment vetting carried out by the Garda National Vetting Bureau is to seek to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults and it is carried out by An Garda Síochána primarily in accordance with the provisions of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012-2016.

Vetting checks are conducted by the Garda National Vetting Bureau for each new vetting application received to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account. This is because once there has been any significant lapse of time between one employment and another, the original vetting disclosure must be reviewed to take account of any changes in information, such as more recent criminal convictions. Furthermore, the data protection law requires that any sensitive personal data which employers use in regard to their employees must be current, accurate and up-to-date. Importantly, the general non-transferability and contemporaneous nature of the current process also helps to protect against the risk of fraud or forgery in the process.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that at present, 80% of overall vetting applications are being processed by the National Vetting Bureau in five working days. This efficiency has been achieved by the deployment of the e-Vetting system which facilitates the on-line processing of applications for vetting from registered organisations. The e-Vetting system is available to all registered organisations and the Garda Authorities are ready to assist those organisations who are not yet using the e-Vetting system to do so. In circumstances where there is such a sustained reduction in processing times, the issue of vetting “transferability” is largely obviated.

That said, there are certain limited circumstances where organisations can share a single vetting disclosure where this is agreed to by the vetting applicant. Section 12(3)(A) of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 (as amended) provides that two or more relevant organisations can enter into a joint written agreement in relation to the employment, contracting, permitting or placement of an person to undertake relevant work or activities thereby providing for only one of the organisations being required to conduct vetting in respect of that person.

Sexual Offences Data

Questions (184)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

184. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the report from the scoping group chaired by a person (details supplied) was presented to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41040/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, late last year a Scoping Group was established by my Department to consider the availability of data and make recommendations on a study to identify the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland today, as well as any emerging trends.

The group was made up of experts and relevant Department officials and was chaired by Professor Dorothy Watson, associate research professor, ESRI, and adjunct professor of sociology at Trinity College Dublin.

The Group completed a draft report and submitted it to me for consideration in April of this year. There was a requirement for further work to be carried out by my Department with a view to advancing the proposals in the report which included consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. Work is currently underway to resolve these issues and I intend to bring proposals to Government in the coming weeks.

Immigration Status

Questions (185)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

185. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in the determination of an application in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41048/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that it wrote to the person concerned on 4 October, 2018 requesting further information and documentation. I understand that INIS will give full consideration to the person's request for permission to reside in this State upon receipt of a response from the person concerned.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Wards of Court

Questions (186, 187, 188)

Clare Daly

Question:

186. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to provide independent oversight of the investments and management of wards' funds in view of his decision to not allow the Comptroller and Auditor General to audit these funds. [41109/18]

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Clare Daly

Question:

187. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider introducing an amendment to Article 33 of the Constitution which would allow the Comptroller and Auditor General legislation to be amended in order to audit wards of court funds. [41110/18]

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Clare Daly

Question:

188. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether the auditing of wards of court funds is an administrative matter involving civil servants and external agents rather than the administration of justice and as such it does not come under Article 35 of the Constitution. [41111/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 to 188, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, the High Court has jurisdiction in wards of court matters and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has advised that there is already independent oversight of the investment and management of wards' funds. These funds are independently audited by external auditors in compliance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAP) and the audited financial statements are published.

The Deputy may also be aware that section 5(1)(a) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 expressly excludes the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) from auditing a fund under the control of the courts. While my Department has examined the proposal to amend the 1993 Act to allow wards of court funds to be audited by the C&AG, I am advised that it is considered to be incompatible with the Constitution’s architecture and not consistent with Article 33.1.

Article 33.1 provides “There shall be a Comptroller and Auditor General to control on behalf of the State all disbursements and to audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas”. The fact that the wardship funds are not public funds and are subject to the control and supervision of the High Court are considered to be essential obstacles to providing that the C&AG may audit such funds. In addition, it is considered that legislating for C&AG oversight of these funds could also undermine the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice under Articles 34.1 and 35.2 of the Constitution.

My Department is not minded at this time to propose any amendments to Article 33 of the Constitution.

Finally, as I have already stated, the High Court has jurisdiction in wards of court matters and given the High Court jurisdiction, it is not appropriate for me, as the Minister, to express a view in relation to whether the auditing of wards of court funds is an administrative matter or otherwise.

Wards of Court

Questions (189)

Clare Daly

Question:

189. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has received a set of 29 questions (details supplied) regarding the investment and administration of wards of court funds which have been sent to his Department and to the Courts Service but have not to date been addressed by the Courts Service; if he has had engagement with the Courts Service in regard to a reply to these questions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41112/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the High Court has jurisdiction in Wards of Court matters and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.

The correspondence referred to by the Deputy has been received and is currently being addressed by my Department and the Courts Service. A reply will be issued in due course.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (190)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

190. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of a citizenship application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41143/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the processing of the application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy is on-going. On completion of the necessary processing the application will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union level, and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. While most straightforward cases are now processed within six months, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Eligibility

Questions (191)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

191. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are circumstances in which a person (details supplied) would be allowed to apply for naturalisation or other long-term permission to remain here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41251/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that it is not possible to provide a targeted response in the absence of more detailed information in relation to the person concerned. I am further advised that a permission on Stamp 0 conditions is a low level immigration status which is not intended to be reckonable for long term residence or citizenship.

It is, however, open to any person to apply to the Minister for Justice and Equality for a certificate of naturalisation and each case will be considered on its individual merits. The grant of naturalisation is at the absolute discretion of the Minister for Justice and Equality who will have regard to the circumstances of the application. Further information on eligibility for applying for citizenship by naturalisation and other immigration pathways that may be available to the person concerned is available at www.inis.gov.ie.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (192)

Alan Kelly

Question:

192. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is a policy regarding ministerial use of private email for Government business in his Department; and if so, if it will be published. [41527/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department's Policy on Acceptable Use of ICT Resources covers all users of the Department's ICT resources, and addresses the use of non-official email.

The policy has recently been revised and the latest version is now available on the website of my Department in the Publications section, under Corporate Documents.

Official Engagements

Questions (193)

Alan Kelly

Question:

193. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he and or officials in his Department attended the 2018 Ryder Cup; if so, the reason they attended; the days on which they attended; the officials they met from a Ryder Cup organisation or the European Tour; and the costs for each individual's attendance. [41539/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I did not attend the Ryder Cup, nor did any official of my Department do so in any official capacity.

Personal Injury Claims

Questions (194)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

194. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if consideration has been given to making it obligatory for plaintiffs in personal injury cases in the first instance to engage with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board prior to engaging in litigation; if consideration has been given to the significant financial and administrative burden on small and medium enterprises as a result of the increased number of personal injury claims; if consideration has been given to publishing anonymised amounts of all awards paid out by enterprises in personal injury cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40602/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, all personal injury claims, with certain exceptions, such as medical negligence cases, must be submitted to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) unless they are settled by the parties involved at an early stage. The most recent figures (2017) published by PIAB do not show an increase in personal injuries claims going through PIAB. The full number of personal injuries claims in Ireland is not known, although PIAB publishes statistics which show aggregate information on claims it handles.

The Cost of Insurance Working Group, chaired by Minister D’Arcy, considered both the cost of claims and the personal injuries claims environment as part of their examination of the Employer Liability and Public Liability insurance sectors. This work culminated in the publication, on January 25th 2018, of the Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance.

The Report makes 15 recommendations with 29 associated actions to be carried out, detailed in an Action Plan contained in the Report with agreed timelines for implementation.

The recommendations, covering three main themes, include actions to:

- Review the level of damages in personal injury cases: which includes a request that the Law Reform Commission undertake a detailed analysis of the possibility of developing constitutionally sound legislation to delimit or cap the amounts of damages which a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries;

- Improve the personal injuries litigation framework: through a number of measures, including:

- ensuring potential defendants are notified in sufficient time that an incident has occurred in relation to which a claim is going to be made against their policy;

- tackling fraudulent or exaggerated claims; and

- ensuring suitable training and information supports are available to the Judiciary to assist in the fair and consistent assessment and awarding of damages in personal injury cases, and

- Increase Transparency: which includes actions to enhance levels of transparency and improve data sharing and collection processes.

All 29 actions are scheduled to be implemented before the end of 2019, with 26 due for completion this year. The sixth Quarterly Progress Update on implementation was published in August and shows that in respect of the actions under this Report due for completion in the first half of the year, 14 of the 15 actions have been completed with the remaining one partially delayed.

The Working Group will continue to focus on implementing the recommendations of the Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance in parallel with implementing those from the 2017 Motor Report. It is hoped that the cumulative effects of the completion of the two Reports’ recommendations, together with the implementation of the recommendations from the two reports of the Personal Injuries Commission, will include increased stability in the pricing of insurance for businesses as well as an improved personal injuries claims environment.

The importance of increasing transparency was identified as one of the three main themes of the recommendations of the Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance. In particular, the Deputy may wish to note the Working Group’s recommendations for the Courts Service to publish the results of personal injury cases in a more granular fashion, to request the Central Statistics Office to consider the feasibility of collecting price information on the cost of insurance to business and for the Central Bank to examine the feasibility of adding employer liability and public liability insurance data to the National Claims Information Database.

Recruitment Agencies Regulation

Questions (195)

Clare Daly

Question:

195. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if foreign agencies recruiting staff abroad to work here are obliged under the regulations to have a licence to do so. [40584/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Employment Agency Act 1971 governs the sector operating in Ireland. Under the Act, an employment agency operating in Ireland must hold a licence to carry out its business. It is an offence under the Act for an employment agency to do so without a licence. An employment agency operating outside Ireland will be subject to regulation, if any, of the jurisdiction in which it is located.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), on behalf of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, deals with applications for employment agency licences. If an employment agency has a premises in the state, it must obtain a licence and, in order to obtain a licence, the premises must conform to the standards of accommodation prescribed by Regulations under the Employment Agency Act 1971 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, Act 2005.

It is an offence for an employment agency to carry on business without an employment agency licence. Under section 10 (1) of the Employment Agency Act, 1971, as amended by section 19 of the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003, a person guilty of an offence under the Act shall be liable on summary conviction to a Class C fine not exceeding €2,500 and in the case of a continuing offence to a further Class D fine not exceeding €1,000 a day.

IDA Ireland

Questions (196, 198)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

196. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if the IDA requires a company to pay the living wage to staff as part of its conditions of giving that company grant aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40787/18]

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Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

198. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if the IDA requires a company not to have zero-hour contracts in place as part of its conditions of giving that company grant aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40789/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 198 together.

As part of the conditions of an employment grant from the IDA, an applicant company must create a certain number of permanent full-time positions. It should be noted, in this context, that the average annual salary of jobs in IDA Ireland client firms is currently €48,406, which evidences the high-quality of those positions.

In order to draw down grants from the Agency, the client company in question must meet the performance targets that are stipulated in the underlying contract between the firm and the IDA. Such contracts also provide that jobs supported by an IDA employment grant must remain in place for five years from the date of the last payment. If that is not the case, the client company is required to repay the grant on a pro rata basis for non-performance.

While the IDA's grant agreements do not contain specific reference to employment legislation, the Agency's client companies are of course required to adhere to the relevant legislation as is the case with all employers operating in the State.

Enterprise Ireland

Questions (197)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

197. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if Enterprise Ireland requires a company to pay the living wage to staff as part of its conditions of giving that company grant aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40788/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Enterprise Ireland does not require a company to pay the living wage to staff as part of its conditions of giving grants to companies. However, while the agency does not collect data relating to salaries paid at the individual level, data collected as part of its annual ABSEI survey shows that the average payroll per employee across the EI client base actually exceeds the living wage. It was €50,100 in 2017 which compares favourably to the national average annual earnings in 2017 which was €37,646, according to the Earnings and Labour Costs Annual Data published in June 2018.

Question No. 198 answered with Question No. 196.

Enterprise Ireland

Questions (199)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

199. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if Enterprise Ireland requires a company not to have zero-hour contracts in place as part of its conditions of giving that company grant aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40790/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Enterprise Ireland does not support zero hour contracts due to the requirements set out under EU State Aid Rules and in line with the agency’s policy. Under EU State Aid rules, Enterprise Ireland can only provide support against actual wage costs calculated over a two-year period. The jobs must be maintained in the SME for 3 years or in a large company for 5 years. In addition, under Enterprise Ireland policy, the supported salary costs must be above the minimum wage salary, applicable in Ireland, for the job to be eligible for support.

Work Permits Data

Questions (200, 201, 202, 203)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

200. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of permits that will be issued under the proposed meat permit pilot scheme to address labour shortages in the meat processing sector; the nationalities of the employees to receive permits from this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41034/18]

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Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

201. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if there is a list of the employers involved in the proposed pilot scheme to address labour shortages in the meat processing sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41038/18]

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Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

202. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if and when copies will be provided of the written statements from employers involved in the proposed pilot scheme containing the information outlined in section 3(1) of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41039/18]

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Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

203. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she has met with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to discuss the matter of the proposed pilot scheme to address labour shortages in the meat processing sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41042/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 to 203, inclusive, together.

Ireland operates a managed employment permits system which maximises the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. Current Government policy is to issue employment permits for the employment of non-EEA nationals for specific vacancies and where the positions on offer cannot be reasonably filled from within Ireland, Switzerland and the EEA.

Meetings took place at official level between my Department and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I recently published the Interdepartmental Group (IDG) Report on the Review of Economic Migration Policy in which the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection played an active role. Membership of the IDG was drawn from senior officials of key Government Departments, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, who played a key role in reviewing all available evidence and data when considering the introduction of the pilot scheme to address labour shortages in the agri-food sector. In addition, my officials delivered a presentation on the pilot scheme at a stakeholder event hosted by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

During the review, I requested that the emerging labour shortages being experienced in the agri-sector be prioritised. As a result, a total of 750 employment permits for meat processing operatives have been made available under the pilot scheme. The pilot scheme is open to all employers working in the sector and workers can be drawn from almost all non-EEA countries. A list of all employers who have been provided with employment permits, and the nationalities of non-EEA nationals who have been issued permits, is available on the Employment Permits section of my Department's website.

The Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994, provides that an employer must issue its employees with a written statement of terms and conditions relating to their employment within two months of commencing employment. It also provides that an employer must notify the employee of any changes in the particulars as given in the statement.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has no record of any complaints received to date from employees involved in the pilot scheme stating that they have not received the information outlined in section 3(1) of the Act mentioned above. It is also worth noting that all applications for an employment permit must include a copy of the contract of employment signed by the employer and employee.