Legal Services Regulation

Question No. 370 answered with Question No. 285.

Questions (369)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

369. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to tackle the lack of regulation of immigration consultants that purport to provide legal advice to persons seeking asylum or residency here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45470/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Immigration Service of my Department has no role in the regulation of immigration consultants in what is a private arrangement between an applicant and any person they wish to engage to advise them. There are no current plans to introduce a system of regulation; however, the matter will be kept under review.

I understand that a significant number of such consultants operate outside of the jurisdiction. Accordingly, the policy of the Immigration Service is that it only deals with the applicant or their legal representative who has written authority to act on the applicant's behalf. The Immigration Service does, of course, receive applications or representations made by immigration consultants on behalf of applicants, but treats them as if they had been received directly from the applicant and accordingly corresponds directly with the applicant concerned and in accordance with Data Protection Regulations.

It should also be noted that the provision of legal services by legal practitioners in the State is regulated by the relevant provisions of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and the Solicitors’ Acts, respectively. It is an offence for unqualified persons to provide such legal services or to pretend to be legal practitioners under the provisions concerned.

Question No. 370 answered with Question No. 285.

Insurance Fraud

Questions (371)

Brendan Smith

Question:

371. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a Garda unit will be established to tackle fraudulent insurance claims arising from the report by the Cost of Insurance Working Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45570/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. The Deputy will appreciate that the Commissioner is solely responsible for the allocation of personnel as well as organisational matters including the nature/number of Garda units involved in investigating any given criminal matter, including insurance fraud, and the resourcing of criminal investigations.

I am informed that the Commissioner is of the view that a Divisional focus on insurance fraud is preferable to the establishment of a centralised investigation unit. This approach is aligned with the Divisional-focused Garda model. It is the intention of the Commissioner that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) will guide Divisions and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud.

The Deputy will be aware that the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) specifically called for An Garda Síochána to explore the potential for further cooperation between it and the insurance sector in relation to insurance fraud investigation. An industry-funded Garda insurance fraud unit was one option considered in this regard. While the Commissioner has indicated that he does not support industry funding of Garda units, he is open to considering other industry-funded proposals to combat insurance fraud.

More recently, each Garda Síochána Division has been requested to provide information regarding the extent of insurance-related fraud. This information is being examined at the GNECB and will be utilised to determine investigative activity, which will be undertaken under Operation Coatee .

Operation Coatee was launched in April 2019, its focus being the prevention of insurance-related fraud and associated crimes on a coordinated basis throughout Ireland. In circumstances where insurance fraud has already occurred, Operation Coatee is designed to maximise the prospect of identifying suspected culprits, and, where possible and appropriate, to initiate criminal proceedings.

A ‘day of action’ was undertaken at the commencement of Operation Coatee on 24 April 2019. The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) engaged in operational activity associated with an investigation relating to over 20 insurance claims which have been made and which, in some cases, have already involved payment being made to claimants. Arising from the ‘day of action’, 6 high-value cars and jewellery with a value in excess of €300,000 were seized, along with a substantial amount of documentation and financial records. The evidence seized continues to be analysed. I understand that on 15 October, Gardaí arrested 5 individuals by way of follow-up to searches conducted on 24 April and investigations are ongoing.

Enterprise Data

Questions (372)

Robert Troy

Question:

372. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of new business start-ups by gender based on the latest EUROSTAT and global data here; the corresponding EU rates in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44213/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I have a longstanding focus on seeing an increase in the numbers of women in business and women becoming entrepreneurs. As recognised in Future Jobs, increasing female participation is a vital way to grow the diversity and strength of our indigenous business sector.

My Department is leading the way in providing a variety of programmes through its agencies to increase the number of women starting businesses and assisting them at every stage, from potential business leaders to women growing their businesses. My Department published the first National Entrepreneurship Policy Statement in 2014. Action 19 of the policy statement is to promote female entrepreneurship through identification and promotion of female role models, targeted events and awards, support for female entrepreneur networks and promotion of a dedicated area on corporate websites.

Enterprise Ireland have been at the forefront of examining the variance in the female to male ratio of start-ups and have put in place measures to address the imbalance. The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) for Female Entrepreneurs aims to support early stage start-ups. The establishment of this programme has resulted in a spill-over effect with increased female participation in other EI programmes. In 2012, just eight percent of the 97 High-Potential Start Ups (HPSUs) were female-led. However, 22 per cent of HPSU approvals went to female-led companies in 2018 and 22% of CSF approvals were for companies led by female entrepreneurs.

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are actively engaged in encouraging and inspiring an increase in female-led businesses through initiatives such as the annual National Women’s Enterprise Day and the Women in Business Networks. An important aspect of the networking programme is the promotion of successful female entrepreneurs as role models and the use of mentoring and networking opportunities which aims to build confidence of newly emerging female entrepreneurs and women operating established businesses. In 2018 the network of Local Enterprise Offices across the country provided training to 21,859 female entrepreneurs (an 18% increase on 2017 figures) and mentoring to 4,565 female entrepreneurs (an increase of 19% on 2017 figures).

I am aware that the GEM Report for 2018 notes the rate of early stage entrepreneurial activity increased among women in Ireland in 2018 and remained stable for men. The rate of early stage entrepreneurial activity is well above European norm for both men and women in Ireland. In most countries more men than women are early stage entrepreneurs. The ratio in Ireland continues to narrow as more women become entrepreneurs (1.6:1). Ireland is now ranked 6th across Europe in this regard. The rate at which women aspire to start a business in Ireland also increased in 2018. The ratio of male to female owner-managers of established businesses is higher (1.8:1) than it is among early stage entrepreneurs (1.6:1), but the gap is narrowing as the female rate is increasing.

To ensure we do everything to narrow this gap further, my Department and its Agencies continue to shine a light on the promotion of female entrepreneurship. I have asked Enterprise Ireland to review and bring forward a new Female Entrepreneurship Strategy by the end of this year.

Over the past number of months there has been wide ranging consultation undertaken with key stakeholders. An in-depth review of current research has been carried out through meeting female entrepreneurs at all stages of development via focus groups and one to one interview.

The main challenges identified can be broadly categorised into three areas:

- Pipeline (of future female entrepreneurs)

- Female founded Start Ups (High Potential Start Ups)

- Scaling of female led enterprises.

In developing this new strategy, consideration is also being given to encompassing the broader entrepreneurship agenda, to target ambitious female led companies to scale in international markets as well as continuing to focus on increasing female founded HPSUs.

Across Government, my Department is supporting the newly formed “Balance for Better Business” initiative, led by my colleague Minister Staunton. This initiative was launched in July this year and will examine the gender mix at the governance and senior management levels in companies, as well as the issues that arise in connection with the appointment of directors and senior management.

Dr Orlaigh Quinn, Secretary General of my Department, is one of the leaders on this group alongside Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland and Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland. It will engage with companies to make the case for change and will report annually on its progress.

I and my Department and its Agencies will continue to advocate and promote the importance of increasing representation of our female entrepreneurs amongst Ireland’s business ecosystem.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (373)

Micheál Martin

Question:

373. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans for an economic impact assessment of the current withdrawal treaty on trade and other economic metrics under the auspices of her Department and agencies under her remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44268/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

In 2018 my Department published a comprehensive, independent expert study undertaken by Copenhagen Economics.

This report examines the implications of Brexit for the Irish economy and trade and quantifies the impact of possible new barriers to trade which might emerge as a result of Brexit. The study also provides analysis of the likely impact of Brexit on key sectors of the Irish economy and considers a range of possible Brexit scenarios.

This analysis was undertaken on the basis of no policy action being taken – this of course, is not the case given the extent of mitigation actions being taken by Government and firms across all sectors of the economy.

All of the scenarios examined produce a result that is less favourable than a non-Brexit scenario. The scenarios considered reflected 4 of the possible outcomes from the future relationship – an EEA scenario, a Free Trade Agreement, a Customs Union, or a worst-case WTO scenario.

Regardless of the scenario modelled, the Irish economy is still expected to record strong, positive growth out to 2030. Brexit has a dampening impact, however, resulting in a lower growth rate than would otherwise have occurred.

The WTO scenario would have the most negative impact on the Irish economy. However, the economy is still projected to grow even under such a scenario, by 2030 GDP is expected to be 7 per cent lower than would otherwise have been the case.

An EEA-like scenario would be least harmful – GDP in 2030 being 2.8 per cent lower than if Brexit had not happened.

The Customs Union scenario is more damaging than the EEA scenario (with GDP estimated to be 4.3 per cent lower in 2030 than would otherwise be the case). This scenario would not remove all tariffs/quotas (i.e. some tariffs on agri-food products would remain) and does not make any provision for services access or ensure regulatory convergence.

The FTA scenario used in the model reflects the average of all existing EU FTAs. Resulting in GDP being 4.3 per cent below baseline in 2030. The more comprehensive an FTA that might be agreed between the EU and UK, the lower the loss in GDP.

Since the Copenhagen Report was finalised, negotiations have progressed. The Withdrawal Agreement and the Declaration on the Future Relationship texts agreed between the EU an UK ,and which are before the UK Parliament at present, anticipate the conclusion of an ambitious Free Trade Agreement.

Based on the type of relationship envisaged, my Department is currently working with Copenhagen Economics to update the previous modelling exercise, to take account of the parameters the Declaration sets out.

Of course, all of the specific provisions of an FTA will be a matter for detailed and complex negotiations between the Union and the UK, and we cannot be certain of the time this will take.

What we know is that while the Declaration aims to minimise the increase in trade costs resulting from Brexit, it acknowledges that there are constraints regarding how low this cost minimisation can go.

I expect the results of the current economic modelling work to be available early next year.

Visa Applications

Questions (374)

John Brassil

Question:

374. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of a work visa for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44372/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that a Critical Skills Employment Permit issued for the person concerned (details supplied) on 1st November 2019.

Job Losses

Questions (375, 382)

Robert Troy

Question:

375. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions she has taken to protect jobs at a company (details supplied); the supports which will be put in place for employees that will be made redundant; if she has spoken with the management of the company regarding the job losses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44398/19]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

382. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the date on which her attention was first drawn to potential job losses at a company (details supplied); when the attention of her officials and the IDA were first drawn to job losses; the dates on which the company informed the IDA, her Department or her office of potential job losses being considered; the dates on which the early warning system in her Department first flagged that jobs were under threat at the company; the date of all meetings held in 2018 and to date in 2019 with either the IDA, her officials or company representatives regarding potential job losses at the company in tabular form; the actions taken from the first time the attention of her Department and the IDA was first drawn to job losses; the actions taken to mitigate this from occurring; and if the company cited global competitiveness concerns as a factor in considering the job losses. [44586/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 375 and 382 together.

The announcement by Molex that it will close its facility in Shannon is a source of significant regret and disappointment. I understand fully how important an employer this company has been to the area and the role it has played in supporting jobs and enterprise in the Mid-West.

The IDA first learnt of the decision by the firm to cease operating in Shannon on 21 October. My Department was informed immediately afterwards by the Agency through the Early Warning System. We unfortunately had no other prior notice of the company’s intentions.

Our immediate concern was of course for the workers and families who stood to be impacted. We were therefore determined to act as swiftly as possible to address the closure and help mitigate, as much as possible, its consequences for the employees and the Shannon region. I also spoke with the CEO of the company on 22 October, who explained that the company’s decision was irreversible.

On 23 October I travelled to Shannon, together with Minister of State Breen, to convene a meeting of key stakeholders. This included representatives from the State’s principal enterprise agencies, Government Departments, Clare County Council, Third Level institutions and the local business community. Our collective focus was to determine how best to respond and to assist those employees who would be impacted by the closure.

Following that meeting, an action plan was agreed with Molex to support the skill development needs of its workers and to help them find alternative employment. Many of those impacted have valuable skills and experience and the IDA, together with other stakeholders, will be drawing the attention of potential employers to their availability. The IDA will also be working separately to market the facility to prospective investors and to find new investment for the area.

Looking further ahead, we will need – as was collectively agreed at the stakeholder meeting – to ensure we create new opportunities across the wider Mid-West region that can help offset many of these job losses. The Mid-West Regional Enterprise Plan – which was launched earlier this year – will be a critical tool in that respect.

While the Molex closure undeniably represents a significant blow for Shannon and the wider area, it remains the case that the Mid-West is performing well in economic terms. The region has seen significant investment in the last three years and key employers include many large-scale manufacturing employers such as Beckton Dickinson, Edwards Lifesciences, Analog Devices, Johnson and Johnson, Regeneron, Stryker and Zimmer. We are therefore optimistic that further new opportunities can be created for the area in the time ahead.

It is also important to acknowledge, in this context, that the Molex closure is purely the result of a decision by the company to discontinue certain product lines that are manufactured in Ireland. It has nothing to do with the competitiveness of our economy or the skills of our workforce. The company has made that fully clear itself.

Company Registration

Questions (376, 377)

Robert Troy

Question:

376. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the process and details of the requirement for new companies to register with the Central Register of Beneficial Ownership of companies and industrial and provident societies; if companies must register with the latter in addition to the Companies Registration Office. [44399/19]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

377. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the administrative burden associated with SMEs having to register twice with two company registers as per correspondence (details supplied); and her further views on the proposals set out with respect to registration and a direct helpline for support on the matter. [44400/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 376 and 377 together.

From November 2016, companies have been obliged to obtain and hold adequate, accurate and current information in respect of the natural persons who are their beneficial owners/controllers.

Under S.I. No. 110 of 2019, as made by the Minister for Finance, the Central Register of Beneficial Ownership of Companies and Industrial and Provident Societies (RBO) is the central repository of such information held by companies and industrial and provident societies.

The RBO is a requirement of the EU’s Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AMLD) and is designed to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. The purpose of collecting data on the beneficial owners of companies is to identify the natural persons who are the real owners/controllers of a company and make this data available to Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), state competent authorities, obliged entities and the general public in order to prevent the use of the European Union’s financial system for the purposes of money laundering and terrorist financing. It is an EU requirement and part of larger efforts by Ireland internationally to combat money laundering, organised crime and terrorism.

The Department of Finance takes a lead role in the forming of national policy regarding negotiations at EU level on the introduction of Anti-Money Laundering legislation. Irish policy is informed and assisted by the Private Sector Consultative Forum (PSCF), which provides an information-sharing framework for private sector stakeholders and designated persons to regularly engage with public agencies on all anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism issues.

Filing with the RBO is free and is a fully electronic process. Full details on registration are provided on the RBO website at www.rbo.gov.ie , including “how to” guides and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. Enquiries can be submitted by e-mail, although I understand that 90% of enquiries received to date are already answered on the FAQ section.

Newly incorporated companies have a period of five months after the date of incorporation to file their beneficial ownership information.

In order to comply with the EU's Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, the Registrar of Beneficial Ownership is required to validate the data entered in the RBO in respect of each beneficial owner. This is to ensure that the natural person exists, is still alive and to avoid duplication on the Register. As part of the validation process, the Registrar compares the data filed with the RBO against the data registered with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) for that person, using an electronic interface.

Under Data Protection Regulations, the RBO does not have access to the personal details entered by the presenter and as such is not in a position to share personal information on potential beneficial owners and reasons for rejection of submissions. Nevertheless, common reasons for RBO submission rejection are listed on the RBO FAQ section and a contact point in DEASP is provided where companies can check the data held by DEASP for each beneficial owner so that they can enter matching data in the RBO.

The information that is required to be filed with the RBO in respect of each beneficial owner (who must be a natural person) is as follows:

- Forename and Surname;

- Date of birth;

- Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) except where a beneficial owner does not have a PPSN, in which case a Declaration as to Verification of Identity can be uploaded;

- Nationality;

- Residential address;

- A statement of the nature of the interest held by each beneficial owner (e.g. controlling shareholder);

- A statement of the extent of the interest held by each beneficial owner (e.g. controller of 26% of shares in company);

- The date on which each natural person was entered in the company's own register as a beneficial owner;

- The date of cessation as beneficial owner.

If, having exhausted all possible means, no natural persons are identified as beneficial owners, there shall be entered in the RBO the names and details of the natural person(s) who hold the position(s) of senior managing official(s) of the company/industrial and provident society. Relevant entities shall keep records of the actions taken to identify their beneficial owners.

The following details of the presenter making the entry in the RBO on behalf of the company are required, i.e. name, contact details and capacity in which they are filing.

Obligations under S.I. No. 110 of 2019 on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing are legally separate to company law requirements under the Companies Act 2014.

The 2014 Act consolidated all existing company law in Ireland providing a corporate legislative framework that reflects international best practice. The Act recognises the ‘Think Small First’ principle by placing less onerous compliance and reporting requirements on SMEs facilitating the growth of new companies and associated employment. Nevertheless, limited liability itself is a concession by the State to business, and must therefore be tempered by robust regulation to protect creditors' interests and to ensure this concession is not abused.

Information on incorporation and filing requirements with the Companies Registration Office is available on the CRO website at https://www.cro.ie/ .

Redundancy Data

Question No. 382 answered with Question No. 375.

Questions (378, 379, 380, 381, 384)

Micheál Martin

Question:

378. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will report on the recent announcement by a company (details supplied) in County Cork; if she has met the company or the IDA to discuss same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44498/19]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

379. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when she was informed of the job reductions in a company (details supplied) in County Cork; if there was an early warning system in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44499/19]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

380. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she had meetings with the IDA since a company (details supplied) announced a global review of its company in 2016; if the IDA was in contact with the company regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44500/19]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

381. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions she has taken to protect jobs at a company (details supplied); the supports that will be put in place for employees that will be made redundant; if she has spoken with management of the company regarding the job losses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44585/19]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

384. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the date on which her attention was first drawn to potential job losses at a company (details supplied); when her officials and the IDA were first made aware of job losses; the dates on which the company informed the IDA, her Department or her office of potential job losses being considered; the dates on which the early warning system in her Department first flagged that jobs were under threat at the company; the date of all meetings held in 2018 and to date in 2019 with either the IDA, her officials or company representatives regarding potential job losses at the company; the actions taken from the first time her attention and the IDA was drawn to job losses; the actions taken to mitigate this from occurring; and if the company cited global competitiveness concerns as a factor in considering the job losses. [44588/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 378 to 381, inclusive, and 384 together.

The decision by Novartis to make a large number of redundancies across two of its Cork sites over the coming years is deeply disappointing. Our primary concern remains supporting those who will be directly impacted by the job losses. That is why every form of state assistance will be made available to the firm’s employees.

Whilst it does not change the fact that valuable jobs will be lost, it’s important to note that the redundancies at the Novartis firms will take place over the next three years: 60 in 2020, 80 in 2021 and 180 in 2022. That does at least provide time in which intensive efforts will be made to offset some of these future job losses through the creation of new employment opportunities in the Ringaskiddy and Carrigaline areas. It is also the case that the employees affected have highly sought-after skills and experience in the competitive pharmaceutical industry. Given the industry’s significant presence in Ireland, and its particular footprint in the wider Cork area, we can be hopeful that many of those who will be made redundant should be able to quickly find similar high-quality jobs in the same industry.

As regards State engagement with Novartis itself, IDA Ireland has a close working relationship with the firm, as it does with the vast majority of its client companies. I understand that officials from the Agency had several meetings this year, both in Cork and abroad, with Novartis management. The IDA was therefore both aware that the company was examining the efficiency of its global manufacturing network and that its facility in Ringaskiddy was operating below capacity. Accordingly, the Agency engaged with Novartis to support and safeguard its future presence here, in a similar way to how it regularly works with its clients all over Ireland to help grow their business and employment numbers in the country.

However, whilst there was an awareness of under-capacity at the facility in Ringaskiddy, the first the IDA learnt of the company’s intention to make any employees redundant was on 22 October. Once that information was provided by the company to the IDA that evening, the Agency relayed it to myself and my Department through an early warning report. We unfortunately did not have any other prior notice of potential job losses at the company.

I subsequently spoke directly with the company’s management. I made it clear that the Irish Government very much regretted its decision. IDA officials also held separate meetings with Novartis since the announcement, with both its management in Ringaskiddy and in Basel, Switzerland.

As I have said, our focus now is supporting the impacted employees and their families. Key State supports include the Intreo service, operated by the Department of Employment Affairs Social Protection. That will help advise employees on entitlements and protections, as well as on re-training and education options. The IDA will be working hard, with both its existing clients in the area but also with prospective investors, to create new jobs in the area.

While it is difficult to be positive so soon after an announcement of redundancies, the reality is that Cork – including the strong biopharmaceutical industry there – has performed strongly in foreign direct investment terms in recent years. Nearly 15,000 net new jobs have been created by IDA clients there over the last nine years. That trend looks set to continue and therefore provides grounds for optimism that new jobs can soon be created to replace those that will be unfortunately lost at Novartis.

Question No. 382 answered with Question No. 375.

Foreign Direct Investment

Question No. 384 answered with Question No. 378.

Questions (383)

Robert Troy

Question:

383. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions that she and the IDA are taking to safeguard FDI jobs here and to combat the decline of Ireland in global competitiveness following recent multinational jobs losses in counties Clare and Cork. [44587/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The recent job losses announced in Counties and Cork are very disappointing. However, these announcements are not a reflection of the strength or competitiveness of our economy. It is important to recognise that the overall trend of employment and investment continues to be very positive – in Clare, in Cork, in Munster and in Ireland as a whole – and there have been a number of significant investments in 2019 across all regions. In fact, there are now over 230,000 people employed in IDA Ireland client companies – the highest-ever figure – and last year alone IDA Ireland won 265 projects, compared with 237 in 2017.

Retaining and strengthening Ireland’s reputation as a first-class destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) remains fundamentally important to our economic model. That is why IDA Ireland continues to work closely with international clients, from a range of sectors, to attract job-rich investment from overseas firms, often in the face of increasing international competition for high-value investment projects.

In doing so, the IDA has targeted both new-name investors and increased investment from companies already located here. The Agency has also restructured its global footprint in response to Brexit and other global challenges. This expansion of the IDA’s presence overseas has allowed IDA’s staff to secure new investment opportunities from non-traditional target markets and to further diversify our sources of investment.

The Government is working to ensure that Ireland’s economy is as competitive as possible. We are conscious of the areas in which we need to improve, including increasing the availability of certain labour market skills and investing further in infrastructure through Project Ireland 2040. We have also introduced Future Jobs Ireland, a cross-government initiative with a strong focus on improving productivity. One of the key features of Future Jobs is developing an awareness of the importance of lifelong learning and continuous training and upskilling. That means when economic patterns shift, businesses and workers alike are better able to adapt and evolve.

Our efforts to win more FDI will be helped by our continued status as an attractive destination with a proven track record as a successful home for overseas firms. Of course, Ireland’s membership of the European Union ensures that companies considering investment here will gain barrier-free access to the EU market. When taken together with other strengths, such as our pro-enterprise environment and our highly skilled dynamic workforce, I am confident that Ireland will continue to be an attractive destination for FDI in the years ahead.

Question No. 384 answered with Question No. 378.

Retail Sector

Questions (385)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

385. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if in her capacity as chair of the Retail Consultation Forum, she consulted with the membership of the forum in relation to the impact the €175 retail export scheme threshold will have on the Irish retail sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44669/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

As the largest private sector employer in the country that supports jobs in every city, town and village in the country I understand the importance of the retail sector.

The Retail Consultation Forum (RCF), which I chair, was established in 2014 to provide a platform for engagement between retail representative bodies, retailers and the public sector on key concerns for the retail sector.

The Retail Consultation Forum enables key issues affecting the retail sector to be discussed, with a view to identifying practical actions which could be taken by Government, or by industry itself, to support sustainable jobs growth in the sector.

Brexit has been a standing item on the agenda for the Retail Consultation Forum (RCF) since 2016.

The Government’s suite of Brexit supports include preparedness vouchers, consultancy and mentoring supports, tariff advisory services, research on new markets and innovation supports through Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and InterTrade Ireland. Support and advice is also available from the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority, Revenue, Skillnet Ireland, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, Bord Bia and Failte Ireland.

As set out in the Government’s Contingency Action Plan Update (July 2019), the Government has made provision on a precautionary basis for two changes to the operation of the Vat Retail Export Scheme in the Brexit Omnibus Act. This is a contingency measure as it is anticipated that a solution to such matters will form part of a future relationship agreement between the EU and the UK.

The Retail Export Scheme is under the aegis of the Department of Finance, and to date has not been discussed at the Retail Consultation Forum.

I will continue to engage with the retail sector in their preparation for Brexit through the Retail Consultation Forum.

Information and Communications Technology

Questions (386)

Alan Kelly

Question:

386. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of computers in her Department that still use an operating system (details supplied) in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44704/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department does not have any computers that still use the Windows 7 operating system and has not had any for quite some time. My Department has a number of procedures in place to ensure that operating systems are kept up to date.

Information and Communications Technology

Questions (387)

Alan Kelly

Question:

387. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if her Department will not be forced to pay additional premium payments to a company (details supplied) once support for an operating system expires in January 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44720/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

As my Department does not have any computers that use the Windows 7 operating system no additional premium payments are required.