Departmental Priorities

Questions (1)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

1. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach the main policy initiatives undertaken by his Department since 27 June 2020; and his main priorities for 2021. [2184/21]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Following its formation, the Government established ten Cabinet committees reflecting the full range of policy areas it will work on during its lifetime, and which are set out in the programme for Government. Cabinet committees meet regularly to help formulate and implement Government policy particularly where cross-government collaboration is critical.

Alongside the State's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and preparations and planning for Brexit, other measures progressed to date involving my Department, include the launch of the work of the Shared Island unit and the new €500m Shared Island Fund; the launch of the July job stimulus package; the establishment of the Social Dialogue unit in my Department; the programme of 19 bills enacted during the Autumn Oireachtas session; and the publication of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

The Legislative Programme for the forthcoming Oireachtas session was published last week by the Government Chief Whip and contains 32 bills for publication and prioritisation which will see the continued delivery of the commitments outlined in the Programme for Government.

My Department will continue in 2021 to support the whole of government response to COVID-19, including the work of the High-Level Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccination, respond to issues arising as a result of Brexit and advance other priority issues in the areas of economic recovery, health, housing and climate change.

Employment Data

Questions (2, 3)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

2. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Taoiseach the number of those employed in the private sector by domestic sector and the multinational sector by average productivity of workers in these sectors in each of the years 1990 to 2020 or the years for which the earliest and latest such data is available in tabular form. [2605/21]

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Mairéad Farrell

Question:

3. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Taoiseach the number of persons employed in the private sector broken down by domestic sector and the multinational sector by average wage levels for these sectors adjusted for inflation in each of the years 1990 to 2020 or the years for which the earliest and latest such data is available in tabular form. [2606/21]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 3 together.

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. Annual structural business statistics are compiled from three surveys conducted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO): the Census of Industrial Production, the Annual Services Inquiry, and the Building and Construction Inquiry. A breakdown between Irish-owned and foreign-owned enterprises is available from the Census of Industrial Production for the years 1991 to 2018, from the Annual Services Inquiry for 2008 to 2018, and from the Building and Construction Inquiry for 2016 to 2018.

Information from these three surveys on the number of enterprises, employment, gross value added, and wages and salaries is set out in the following three tables, for the years available with a breakdown between Irish-owned and foreign-owned enterprises.

Tables 1 - 3

Employment Data

Questions (4)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

4. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Taoiseach the number of persons employed in the foreign direct investment, FDI, multinational sector from 1990 to 2020 or the years for which the earliest and latest such data is available by services and manufacturing within that sector; and the percentage that each constitutes of total FDI multinational employment and the private sector in tabular form. [2607/21]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. The following table sets out the numbers of persons engaged in Irish-owned and foreign-owned enterprises in manufacturing for the years 2001 to 2018, and in services for 2008 to 2018, i.e. the years for which a breakdown between Irish-owned and foreign-owned is available for all size categories. The figures on manufacturing are taken from the Census of Industrial Production, excluding the mining, quarrying, electricity, gas, water and waste sectors. The services figures cover the sectors measured by the Annual Services Inquiry.

Manufacturing Table

Enterprise Data

Questions (5)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

5. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Taoiseach the value of gross FDI inflows from 1990 to 2020, by manufacturing and services; and the percentage of these inflows that is classed as pass-through FDI in each of these years in tabular form. [2608/21]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Central Statistics Office compiles statistics on Foreign Direct Investment as part of our International Accounts compilation. Statistics on Foreign Direct Investment are presented in the quarterly International Accounts publication. Further information on Foreign Direct Investment, including sectoral breakdowns and information on pass-through investment, is presented in two annual Foreign Direct Investment publications. Data are not available for all of the years from 1990 to 2020, included below are the years for which data are available.

The table below shows Foreign Direct Investment inflows broken down into the Manufacturing and Services sectors.

Euro Billions

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Manufacturing

13.8

2.2

20.8

-2.8

-36.3

54.5

Services

24.1

34.6

175.6

38.3

82.9

-79.0

Total

38.1

36.3

196.4

35.6

46.8

-23.8

The table below shows Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland positions broken down into the Manufacturing and Services sectors.

Euro Billions

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Manufacturing

81.3

78.0

318.2

321.4

270.1

314.6

Services

218.1

274.7

498.0

475.1

611.0

558.1

Total

300.7

354.0

817.6

797.5

882.2

873.7

Currently there is no benchmark definition of pass-through FDI since it can come in different forms and largely depends on the level of operational activity within MNEs in an economy. The Central Statistics Office estimates pass-through FDI occurring in Ireland by comparing a firm’s FDI assets and liabilities. The lower of these is then chosen and used as the estimate of pass-through FDI for that particular enterprise. For more information on the method used see the “Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland” publication on the Central Statistics Office website.

The table below shows the amount of pass-through estimated in the inward FDI positions.

Euro Billions

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Pass-Through

75.2

68.7

263.1

265.8

299.0

312.4

Inward FDI

300.7

354.1

817.6

797.5

882.2

873.7

Pass-Through presence in Inward FDI

25%

19%

32%

33%

34%

36%

For more details on FDI in Ireland see the “Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland” publication here:

https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-fdi/foreigndirectinvestmentinireland2018/

Labour Court

Questions (6)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

6. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of proposals (details supplied). [2289/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Labour Court held a hearing with all interested parties on a proposal submitted to it by the Security Industry Joint Labour Committee (JLC) on 18 January 2021.

The Labour Court shall consider the matter pursuant to section 42B (12) of the IR Act 1946. The Labour Court may, as it thinks proper, adopt the proposal, amend the proposal, or refuse to adopt the proposal.

Should the Labour Court adopt the proposal, it shall submit it to the Minister for his consideration. It is then a matter for the Minister, should he be satisfied that the required legal steps have been adhered to and considers it appropriate to do so, to make an order - known as an Employment Regulation Order - giving statutory effect to such proposal.

Workplace Relations Commission

Questions (7, 8, 9)

Mick Barry

Question:

7. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the Workplace Relations Commission on Irish-flagged fishing vessels from January 2020 to December 2020; the number of prosecutions subsequently initiated by the Workplace Relations Commission as a result of these inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2316/21]

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Mick Barry

Question:

8. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of undocumented fishers discovered on board vessels during inspections on Irish-flagged fishing vessels from January to December 2020 within the scope of the inspection powers of the Workplace Relations Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2317/21]

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Mick Barry

Question:

9. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if concerns emerged about matters that fell within the scope of the Marine Survey Office in the course of Workplace Relation Commission inspections of Irish-flagged fishing vessels from January to December 2020; the number of referrals made by the Workplace Relations Commission to the Marine Survey Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2318/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, together.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) contributes to multi-agency efforts to enforce the Atypical Worker Permission Scheme for Non-EEA Workers engaged on certain Irish-registered whitefish fishing vessels.

In terms of fisher activity, 31 desktop inspections and two on-board inspections were completed in 2020, covering some 37 vessels coming within the scope of the Atypical Scheme. Some 36 contraventions of employment rights or employment permits legislation, relating to 19 vessel owners, were detected in 2020.

WRC Inspectors, with the assistance in certain cases of the Naval Service and/or based on owners’ records, detected 5 instances in 2020 in which fishers did not have permission to work in the State.

During 2020, some 64 fisheries investigations/cases, covering 71 vessels coming within the scope of the Atypical Scheme, were closed. Contraventions were detected in 25 of those cases; in 22 of which compliance was achieved following engagement with the vessel owners while prosecutions were initiated in the other three cases.

Five referrals were made by the WRC to the Marine Survey Office in 2020 and one to date in 2021, bringing to 36 the total number of such referrals made since an agreement was reached between the WRC and the MSO in April 2019 regarding liaison on working time issues.

Trade Agreements

Questions (10)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

10. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department will carry out a risk assessment analysis on the legal, regulatory, economic and environmental implications of Ireland signing up to the remaining elements of Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, including the investor court system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2332/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, commonly known as CETA, is one of the EU’s new generation of progressive free trade agreements. CETA is designed to benefit EU and Canadian companies through improved trade flows in support of increased employment for our citizens. The elimination of tariffs, reduced trade barriers and simplified customs procedures that flow from CETA all make it easier and cheaper for Irish companies of all sizes to export to Canada and vice versa. Outside of Europe, the US and China, Canada is our largest indigenous export market with more than 400 Enterprise Ireland clients doing business in the Canadian market employing over 6,000 people.

Diversifying trade is an important part of our Brexit response and it will be an important factor in our recovery post-pandemic. To this end, the best way to achieve export growth and market diversification is by improving market access and reducing costs of entering those markets which is what CETA is designed to achieve. Given our historic ties with Canada, Ireland’s enterprises are particularly well placed to benefit from CETA.

The main benefits for Ireland in this Agreement include:

- the opening up of public procurement markets in the Canadian provinces giving Irish firms increased access to Canadian public sector purchasing;

- unlimited tariff-free access for most of our important food exports;

- a low beef import quota from Canada to the EU thereby safeguarding our important EU market in this area; and

- the recognition of product standards and certification, saving on ‘double testing’ on both sides of the Atlantic.

Furthermore, the benefits and opportunities to business in the Agreement will be especially valuable for SMEs, given that trade barriers tend to disproportionately burden smaller firms, which have fewer resources to overcome them than larger firms. Indeed, CETA contains an entire chapter exclusively dedicated to SMEs aimed at ensuring they can take full advantage of the improved market access.

In services and investment, CETA is the most far-reaching agreement the EU has ever concluded. Almost half of the benefits anticipated from CETA are expected in the services sector where CETA makes it easier for EU individuals and companies to provide services to Canadian customers and vice versa. It covers services such as legal, accountancy, transport and telecoms and there are significant opportunities for Ireland given its strengths in services, with services exports accounting for approximately 60% of all exports in 2019.

Provisional application is a standard mechanism provided for in the EU’s Free Trade Agreements. This means that those areas where the EU has full competence may be applied immediately once the Agreement has been voted for by Council and the European Parliament. It is an important mechanism that allows consumers and companies to benefit from a trade agreement at an early stage, as the completion of national ratification procedures across all 27 Member States can take several years. The provisions in force since 21st September 2017 include:

- the elimination of tariffs on almost all key exports,

- access to the Canadian procurement market,

- the easing of regulatory barriers and

- more transparent rules for market access.

The full coming into force of the Agreement once ratified across all Member States, will see the implementation of the Investment Chapter of the Agreement including the resolution of disputes between investors and states, should they arise.

All international trade agreements have dispute resolution arrangements. Where such agreements cover (i) trade in both goods and services and (ii) investment rules and protections, then there must be a dispute resolution mechanism that covers investments. The EU’s new approach to investment protection is the Investment Court System (ICS) which is contained in CETA and replaces the old Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS mechanism.

ISDS, which has been in existence since the 1950s, enables overseas investors to resolve disputes with the government of the country where their investment is made through binding international arbitration. ISDS has been included in more than 2,000 investment treaties but has proved controversial in recent times and is now regarded as outdated by the European Commission. In this regard, the Irish Government considered the European Commission was right to seek to address the concerns raised by NGOs and others regarding ISDS in seeking to develop a new replacement mechanism – the Investment Court System (ICS) – to address concerns on transparency, legitimacy and public interest. ICS is the Investment Dispute Settlement system incorporated in CETA.

ICS addressees the concerns around the old ISDS system through:

- Greater transparency – hearings will be open and comments available on-line, and a right to intervene for parties with an interest in the dispute will be provided;

- Safeguards to prevent forum-shopping;

- Provisions for the swift dismissal of frivolous claims should they arise;

- The maintenance of a clear distinction between international law and domestic law;

- The avoidance of multiple and parallel proceedings in the ICS and national courts, and;

- The establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators.

The reforms to investment protection mean the ICS will involve:

- a public Investment Court System composed of a first instance Tribunal and an Appeal Tribunal;

- the establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators with qualifications – comparable to those required for the members of permanent international courts, from which members will be selected to hear individual cases; and

- precise limitations on the ability of investors to take a case before the Tribunal.

It is important to remember that a Canadian firm can seek to sue Government for alleged unfair treatment or discrimination in our courts whether CETA exists or not. CETA simply provides an arbitration alternative. That alternative, unlike a challenge in the courts, cannot find any act by Government to be ultra vires or unconstitutional - it is only concerned with redress for proven harm.

Irish companies investing in Canada have only one legal system and one constitutional framework to navigate should they believe they have been discriminated against. In contrast, Canadian companies investing in Europe are faced with 27 legal systems and constitutions. The Investment Court System provides a single, consistent mechanism where investors, be they Canadian or European, can seek redress.

It is also important to point out that CETA reaffirms the EU and Canada’s right to regulate to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of public health, the environment or consumer protection, meaning measures relating to plain packaging on cigarettes, or minimum alcohol pricing can continue to be introduced. Further, an investor’s loss of profits will not be sufficient grounds for making a claim against a Government. Any claim must be based on discriminatory and unfair treatment.

Additionally, as one of the first “new generation” EU Free Trade Agreements, CETA contains a dedicated chapter on Trade and the Environment. The Agreement has some of the strongest commitments ever included in a trade deal to promote labour rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. CETA integrates the EU's and Canada's commitments to apply international rules on workers' rights, environmental protection and climate action. These obligations, which came into force at the time of provisional application are binding, with the same legal value as any other provision. Furthermore, the Agreement includes commitments towards the sustainable management of forests, fisheries and aquaculture. It also reinforces the Parties' commitments to multilateral environmental agreements to which it is a party, including the Paris Agreement, which is an important shared responsibility for the EU and Canada. Both sides also agree that more trade and investment should not be at the expense of environmental protection and labour rights. On the contrary, the EU and Canada are committed to ensuring that CETA helps ensure that economic growth, social development, and environmental protection go hand in hand.

The EU Commission published a Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment relating to the negotiation of CETA in June 2011. This study provided a comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of trade liberalisation under CETA. The impact analysis assessed the economic, social and environmental impacts in Canada and the European Union, in three main sectors, sixteen sub-sectors and seven cross-cutting issues. In addition to examining potential gains from removing factors affecting the free flow of goods, services and capital, consideration was given to areas such as labour mobility, government procurement, intellectual property rights, telecommunications services and electronic commerce. Overall the impact assessment found that the sustainability impacts to Canada and the European Union would not be significant.

At a national level, my Department has commissioned econometric modelling on the impacts of CETA. Analysis to date estimates that Ireland’s GDP will be 0.2 percent higher in 2030 than would have been the case in a baseline scenario without CETA. It also finds total global exports from Ireland will be 0.7 percent higher in 2030 as a result of CETA. In addition, the current modelling estimates that, given that existing average tariffs on exports to Canada are relatively low (0.3% weighted average), the main benefits for Irish exporters stemming from CETA arise from a 10 percent reduction in non-tariff barrier costs on Ireland’s exports to Canada.

The combination of export-led growth and foreign direct investment has transformed Ireland’s economy over recent decades. As a small, open, economy, Ireland has benefitted immensely from our export orientated enterprises trading across the globe and, therefore, we fully support balanced international trade and the collection of EU Free Trade Agreements that seek to underpin this. This Agreement and the EU's other Trade Agreements are key instruments to assist the work of Enterprise Ireland in supporting Irish Enterprise in global markets. Moreover, the Investment Protection elements of CETA make the EU - and Ireland - a more attractive location for mobile Canadian FDI and also affords protections for Irish-based enterprises investing in Canada as part of their internationalisation.

In September 2017, Belgium requested the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the compatibility of the ICS with EU law. The Opinion of the Court in Case 1/17 was issued on 30th April 2019 and held that the dispute settlement mechanism in CETA is compatible with EU law and complies with (i) the principle of autonomy of EU law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the CJEU for the interpretation of EU law, (ii) the principle of equal treatment and of the requirement of effectiveness of EU law, and (iii) the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in particular of the right of access to a court and right to an independent and impartial tribunal under the Charter.

In conclusion, I believe that the foregoing assessments have already made a strong case as to the benefits for the EU and Ireland deriving from CETA. Furthermore, the EU produces an FTA Annual Implementation Report which identifies progress with FTA deliverables and which can inform further actions if required. Finally, the European Commission has recently appointed a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer who is tasked with overseeing effective implementation and observance of commitments in our list of EU FTAs, including CETA.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (11)

Holly Cairns

Question:

11. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if employees of his Department have received Covid-19 vaccines due to their role in the Department; if so, the rationale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2398/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Government published the national COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy on 15th December 2020. The Strategy outlines Ireland’s high-level plan for safe, effective and efficient vaccination on a phased basis across different categories of our population while safeguarding continued provision of health and social care services.

The Deputy will be aware that the first COVID-19 vaccines to be administered in Ireland commenced at the end of December 2020. The initial priority is focusing on those most at risk such as those in full-time residential care, people aged 70 and above, and to frontline medical personnel.

To date no member of staff in the Department or its Offices has received a vaccination specifically for the purpose of undertaking their official duties.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (12)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

12. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the role the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, has in risk assessing construction sites in advance of level 5 lockdowns; the monitoring of compliance with level 5 restrictions it conducts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2430/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under the Government Level 5 restrictions only construction sites considered essential are allowed to remain open. The limited list of essential construction sites that can remain open from 8 January is set out on www.gov.ie.

The Health and Safety Authority has no role in determining whether any business, including construction sites, is essential or not. However, inspectors from the Health and Safety Authority have continued, at the various levels of COVID-19 restrictions, to carry out inspections of individual construction sites to ensure that such sites are in compliance with the Work Safely Protocol and that COVID Response Plans are in place, as well as checking that compliance with existing statutory occupational safety and health regulations are being maintained.

The Health and Safety Authority will continue to act as the lead agency in relation to the assessment of compliance with the Work Safely Protocol in businesses which remain open at the various levels of restrictions. Up to 700 additional inspectors remain available to also carry out compliance inspections across various sectors of the economy.

Brexit Issues

Questions (13)

Niall Collins

Question:

13. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will address a matter relating to Brexit customs issues (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2463/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Since January 1, following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, the UK has been outside the EU Single Market and Customs Union and this means that a range of new formalities apply to goods moving to, from or through the United Kingdom, excluding Northern Ireland.

I am aware that Revenue fully appreciates that the new regulatory requirements and customs formalities present significant challenges and impose additional burdens on businesses. These requirements can be complex, but it is essential that Ireland fulfils its obligations as a member of the EU and that we protect public health, food safety and product standards as well as the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

The Government has provided a range of supports to assist businesses in adapting to the new rules and procedures that are now in place, including the Ready for Customs Grant scheme and the Clear Customs training programme. Officials and State Agencies have also been providing support and assistance on a 24/7 basis when practical difficulties with the new rules and procedures arise.

I appreciate that some businesses have found that it has taken longer to move goods through our ports, but it is important to note that a significant number of businesses have successfully made the transition to the new trading environment. These businesses are successfully submitting Customs declarations and receiving the associated Master Reference Numbers (MRNs) and are using these MRNs to create and populate the Pre-Boarding Notification (PBN). In recent days, more than 70% of goods being imported through Dublin Port, for example, are being green routed on arrival meaning they can leave the port without the need for additional interaction with Customs or other State agencies.

As regards the performance of Revenue’s Customs IT systems, I am advised by Revenue that in most cases, further investigation of specific issues raised with them has revealed that the actual error has been as a result of incorrect data rather than a systems issue. However, there have also been some systems issues and, in such cases, Revenue issued clear and timely communications that enabled affected businesses to continue to move their goods. These notifications are available on the Revenue website but are also automatically issued to businesses that have signed up to receive Revenue eCustoms Notifications. I am assured by Revenue that it was not a systems issue that led to the introduction of a temporary easement measure provided to trade and business in regard to the import safety and security declaration (ENS) declaration. PBNs are being successfully filed on a daily basis by trade and business.

I am satisfied based on the examination of the issues undertaken by Revenue and the assurance provided to me by Revenue that the customs IT systems are functioning well and are robust and resilient. I do, of course, fully appreciate the difficulties that arise for business when even short-term issues impact on business and the efficiency with which they can move goods. I fully support the Revenue approach of working with individual businesses and with the relevant trade representative bodies to assist them in building the understanding and knowledge of customs formalities and ensuring compliance with same so that goods movements between Ireland and Great Britain can be as efficient as possible, mindful of the fact that the trading environment changed irrevocably following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

Brexit Issues

Questions (14)

Joe O'Brien

Question:

14. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has a role in monitoring retail food prices; and if so, if any discernible increase has been measured due to Brexit. [2466/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

A number of Government Departments and statutory bodies have a role or interest in monitoring the impact of Brexit on retail prices. These include the Department of Finance, the Central Statistics Office, and the Central Bank of Ireland.

In terms of my Department, the Economic the Social Research Institute undertook research at the request of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in 2018 on the impact of Brexit on consumers in Ireland to help inform a wider understanding of the potential impact of Brexit and assist in ensuring Ireland’s preparations. The study found that there was likely to be an increase in the cost of living depending on the scenario that would apply after the Brexit process had concluded.

The CSO's most recent data for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for December 2020 was published on 14 January last and contains detailed information about changes in the average prices of food & non-alcoholic beverages. Prices on average for food & non-alcoholic beverages fell by 0.1% in the month to December 2020 with food prices rising 0.1% and prices for non-alcoholic beverages falling by 1.6%. Over the previous 12-months, the price of food & non-alcoholic beverages fell by 1.6% with food prices falling by 1.1% and non-alcoholic beverages prices falling by 4.4%. The CPI statistics for food and non-alcoholic beverages for January 2021 will be published on 18 February next.

Clearly, it is too early to tell how Brexit is affecting retail food prices. It is likely that there will be some changes in pricing by retailers arising from disruptions caused by Brexit and as supply chains are re-configured to deal with Brexit realities. My Department is in regular contact with retailers to identify if there are any vulnerabilities apparent in their supply chains. This engagement will continue and challenges to supply logistics are actively monitored by my officials.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (15)

Bríd Smith

Question:

15. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will clarify the situation regarding the definition of essential and non-essential workplaces and services during the Covid-19 crisis and level 5 restrictions and specifically the definition that applies to the construction sites of companies, such as a company (details supplied); the specific definition applied to FDI firms and construction work; if the HSA has the authority to close down a workplace or retail outlet that is deemed to be non-essential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2506/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under the Government Level 5 restrictions only businesses considered essential are allowed to remain open. The limited list of essential businesses, services and construction sites, which includes certain large projects in the Exporting/FDI sector, that can remain open is set out on www.gov.ie.

To implement the new measures S.I. No. 4 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 was signed by the Minister for Health on 7 January. Paragraph 6 (2) (a) of S.I. 4 of 2021 deals with the exemptions in relation to construction and amends Part 2 of the Schedule of the Principal Regulations - S.I. No. 701 of 2020 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020.

This amendment provides for the continuation of construction and development projects which are necessary for maintenance of supply chains in respect of manufacturing or information and communication services specified in the Schedule of S.I. 701 of 2020. The manufacturing services referenced include: chemicals, pharmaceutical products, medical devices, IT equipment, products necessary for national and international supply chains, personal hygiene products, etc. Construction and development projects relating to general purpose facilities (for example office accommodation) in respect of such manufacturing services are excluded from the scope of the exemption.

There is a separate exemption in S.I. 4 of 2021 that provides for construction and development projects that relate to the direct supply of medical products for Covid-19.

All construction projects covered by the exemption must continue to adhere to the stringent public health measures set out in the Work Safely Protocol. The Health and Safety Authority will continue to act as the lead agency in relation to the assessment of compliance with the Work Safely Protocol across all businesses, including construction sites, which remain open at the various levels of restrictions. Up to 700 additional inspectors from other State Agencies and Bodies are also available to also carry out compliance inspections across sectors of the economy.

I would add that the Health and Safety Authority has no role in determining whether any business, including construction sites, is essential or not. Concerns about whether or not any business has remained opened in accordance with the relevant regulations should be brought to the attention of the Gardaí.