Brexit Supports

Questions (29)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

29. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he will put in place to support SMEs in the used car sales sector in the wake of the commencement of crippling post-Brexit tariffs; if he will help secure access to Brexit support funding for such enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6918/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

My Department and its agencies have put a wide range of Brexit enterprise measures in place, covering potential Brexit impacts. Details of the enterprise measure approvals made as part of the COVID -19 and Brexit supports available are updated weekly on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/Publications/Business-Supports-2021.html.

My Department is providing a wide range of grants, loans and advisory services to affected businesses. This includes more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland and SBCI.

The Brexit Loan Scheme, launched in March of 2020 and operated by the SBCI, offers affordable working capital to eligible SMEs that are either currently impacted by Brexit or which will be in the future. Funding granted under the scheme must be used to innovate, change or adapt to meet the challenges posed by Brexit. The Brexit Loan Scheme makes lending available to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees that are exposed to current or future impacts arising as a result of Brexit. Loans range from €25,000 to €1.5 million, for terms of up to three years, at a maximum interest rate of 4%. Loans up to €500,000 available unsecured.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme has been expanded and now makes a total fund of up to €800 million available for terms of 7-10 years. This scheme is open to eligible Irish businesses, to support strategic, long-term investment, for future sustainability and growth. Loans range from €25,000 to €3 million and loans up to €500,000 available unsecured.

The Microfinance Ireland Brexit Business Loan provides up to €25,000 to businesses whose turnover has fallen (or is likely to fall) by 15% or more, or where a business has a short-term cashflow need as a result of Brexit. Loans range from six months to three years.

Enterprise Ireland’s Customs Insights online course is available to all SMEs and aims to give businesses a firm understanding of the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to succeed post transition. The course advises on the key actions companies can take to prepare for customs after the transition period, and the resources available to support these actions. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) offer “Prepare Your Business for Customs” workshops which are open to all businesses, these workshops cover areas such as what export and import procedures apply, how tariffs work and how to correctly classify goods.

InterTradeIreland’s (ITI) Brexit Advisory Service offers a focal point for businesses working to navigate changes in cross-border trading relationships as a result of Brexit. ITI has run a series of awareness-raising events to help improve knowledge of customs processes and procedures. These events also identify actions businesses can take in areas like logistics and supply chain management. Their Brexit Planning Voucher enables eligible businesses to seek professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for Brexit. This helps businesses get advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, and regulatory and customs issues.

Further information and advice on Brexit including information on new trading rules, supply chain, transport and logistics, the UK landbridge, staffing, contracts and data protection and be found here: gov.ie/brexit.

My officials have worked with other relevant Departments to identify the type and number of businesses that fall outside the scope of the CRSS. I am pleased the Government agreed to establish a new COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) to help those not eligible for CRSS or Fáilte Ireland schemes, which we announced on 9th February. The new CBAS will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority.

Government will continue to address suitable enterprise measures in the context of the evolving Brexit challenges to our economy and our people.

My colleague, Eamon Ryan, TD, Minister for Transport, may be of further assistance in these matters. The Brexit Unit within the Department of Transport seeks to ensure a coordinated approach to Brexit across all of the Department’s policy areas and is working to ensure that any impacts to sectors are minimised. The department is represented on all relevant cross-departmental co-ordination structures and an internal Departmental Committee on Brexit meets regularly. The department is also working closely with agencies and key stakeholders. Advice and information on Brexit and transport is set out on that Department’s website at: gov.ie - Department of Transport (www.gov.ie)

Company Registration

Questions (30)

David Cullinane

Question:

30. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to serious issues with the Companies Registration Office CORE portal as highlighted by a body (details supplied); if steps will be taken to extend the filing deadline; if not, if certainty will be offered that no late filing penalties will apply due to delays caused by these issues with the portal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6974/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Registrar of Companies is a statutory role and the Registrar has administrative independence in the exercise of this function.

I have not received correspondence directly from the body referred to by the Deputy in relation to the CRO IT system but I am aware that the Registrar of Companies has been in correspondence. A major upgrade of the CRO IT system went live with effect from 16th December 2020. This was a significant modernisation project which greatly increases the range of documents that can be filed electronically, with resulting efficiency gains for both business and the CRO. The new CRO cloud-based IT platform is designed to provide improved and faster user experience for presenters and a fully paperless interaction with the CRO for certain transactions, including the most common ones carried out by companies such as the filing of annual returns and the changing of directors and their details. The introduction of a fully paperless system for these transactions provides certainty of delivery for companies. In addition, the new system allows for the go live of the new one-stage filing deadline of 56 days from a company's annual return date, over-hauling the previous two stage annual returns filing process.

I am informed that issues have been identified since go-live, the majority of which are of a relatively minor nature and generally not impeding the filing of documents. I am assured that such issues continue to be addressed on a prioritised basis, with the most significant having already been dealt with and the remaining issues being addressed over the coming weeks.

In relation to the filing of annual returns, the Registrar had taken a number of decisions during 2020 to assist companies experiencing challenges due to the Covid-19 situation. In October 2020, the Registrar announced that any company with an Annual Return Date from 30th September 2020 onwards would be deemed to have filed on time if all elements of the annual return were completed and filed by 26th February 2021. The Registrar has been keeping the situation under ongoing review. On 2nd February, my colleague, Robert Troy TD, Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital & Company Regulation announced the decision of the Registrar to extend the current filing arrangements, until 28th May 2021, for those companies with an Annual Return Date from 30th September 2020 onwards.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (31)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

31. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the process and procedures to which an Irish employer must adhere in order for seasonal agricultural workers who are EU citizens to travel here and commence work as prescribed essential workers for the spring, summer and autumn seasons; and the Covid-19 mitigation measures the workers must undertake before arriving and on arrival. [6976/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Any mitigation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for those travelling into Ireland for essential work are primarily a matter for the Department of Transport, Department of Health and the Department of Justice. Any processes or procedures an essential worker or an employer might have to comply with, before arriving or on arrival in Ireland, would be based on the current public health advice.

From the 4th of February 2021, mandatory quarantine was introduced for all passengers arriving in Ireland, including those coming to work . Under the current regulations, only specific categories of travellers, these are listed on www.gov.ie, are exempt from completing mandatory quarantine. This list does not include seasonal agricultural workers.

All passengers arriving into Ireland are required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form and quarantine for 14 days at the place of residence as stated on the form. In addition, all passengers are required to have a negative / ‘not detected’ result from a pre-departure COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in Ireland. These passengers can stop quarantining once they get a negative PCR test, taken no less than 5 days after arrival. Anyone arriving into Ireland from South Africa or Brazil must quarantine for the full 14 days from the date of arrival into Ireland, even if they obtain a negative PCR test during this time.

As the Deputy may be aware, additional measures to support mandatory quarantining are under consideration by Government.

In relation to workplaces, the Work Safely Protocol sets out the measure every employer is required to take when an employee starts work or returns to work after an absence. The Health and Safety Authority together with other inspectorates from across Government are carrying out inspections to ensure compliance with the Protocol.

Ministerial Correspondence

Questions (32)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

32. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6998/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

A detailed response was provided directly to Shannon Chamber last week.

In situations where an employer must make an employee redundant, it is the employer’s responsibility to pay statutory redundancy payments to eligible employees. However, if an employer cannot sustain the cost of redundancy payments due to financial difficulties or insolvency the State provides a safety net for both employers and employees. The Department of Social Protection can make the statutory redundancy payment to eligible employees from the Social Insurance Fund on behalf of the employer. The employer does not have to be insolvent for the Department of Social Protection to make these payments on their behalf.

When such a redundancy payment is made from the Social Insurance Fund, a debt is raised against the employer. The Department of Social Protection engages directly with the employer to ascertain their financial situation and their capacity to repay the debt. An agreed repayment plan can be put in place to minimise financial hardship.

The redundancy rebate scheme was abolished in 2013. The rebate to employers was paid regardless of a company’s financial situation and ability to pay, or ongoing commitment to the Irish economy, thus benefitting viable and profitable companies, including multinational companies. At the time the rebate was ceased it was not deemed a targeted use of resources. In contrast, the Redundancy Payments Scheme as it now operates benefits employees whose employers are unable to make statutory redundancy payments. The Scheme considers both an employer’s ability to pay and that the Social Insurance Fund can be reimbursed in the future, through debt repayment if an employer’s financial position improves. This is a more targeted use of funds.

Therefore, there are currently no plans for the reintroduction of the rebate scheme as per the previous model for all employers.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (33)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

33. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the guidelines or supports in place to provide rental assistance for small businesses that are closed due to the Covid-19 emergency restrictions and that cannot pay their rent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7129/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

These are difficult times and many companies have had to temporarily close their businesses and / or premise(s), curtail their activities or make alternative work arrangements due to COVID-19 restrictions. I am aware that some businesses are concerned that some landlords are continuing to insist on the payment of rents and leases as normal despite their premises being closed.

The issue of commercial rents is primarily a contractual matter for the parties involved. However, the Government has urged landlords and tenants to talk to one another and come to some arrangement, as it is in everybody’s interest that terms are amicably agreed. With this in mind, on 1st October 2020, I published the Code of Conduct between landlords and tenants for commercial rents. The aim of the voluntary Code is to facilitate discussions between landlords and tenants impacted by COVID-19. It sets out a structured approach for engagement between both commercial landlords and tenants, based on their mutual interest in continuing to work together.

However, this Code should not be seen in isolation. To date, over €24 billion had been made available in financial support for businesses, including the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme, wage subsidies, a commercial rates holiday, low-cost loans, and a VAT reduction. The Code of Conduct and the full list of supports is available on my Department’s website.

The Government is committed to ensuring as many businesses as possible survive this challenging period, and it will continue to look at how we can help businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (34)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

34. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) will be examined. [7257/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

These measures are in addition to the July Stimulus €7bn package of enterprise measures, which includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended through 2021, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst self-employed. We are providing for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for adversely affected businesses.

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed, including sole traders, who exit the PUP or jobseekers schemes, to re-start their business. Further information is available at www.gov.ie.

On the 9th of December, following engagement with the Arts sector and other self-employed sectors my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, announced the doubling of the PUP threshold from the current €480 over four weeks to €960 over an eight-week period effective immediately. This measure is to assist those who are trying to restart their businesses and will allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs without losing their entitlement to the PUP.

The Government also announced the provision of support of €50m for the live entertainment sector in Budget 2021. This will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector and will support live entertainment across the country. The 2021 supports for the live entertainment sector will be the subject of further consultation with stakeholders. It will also be informed by the pilot live performance scheme in 2020 which is being rolled out now.

I can assure the Deputy that all COVID-19 Business Schemes, including the CRSS, are under constant review in terms of the evolving situation and will be adapted as circumstances dictate.

My officials have worked with other relevant Departments to identify the type and number of businesses that fall outside the scope of the CRSS. I am pleased the Government agreed to establish a new COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) to help those not eligible for CRSS or Fáilte Ireland schemes, which we announced on 9th February. The new CBAS will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority.

My colleagues, the Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and Minister Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine may be able to provide more specific details on the events and hospitality industry, and details on supports for the food sector respectively.

Company Registration

Questions (35)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

35. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the grounds on which an unlimited company can apply for an exemption from having to file financial statements with the Companies Registration Office under the Companies (Accounting) Act 2017. [7258/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

There is no requirement for an unlimited company to file financial statements unless there is limited liability. Therefore, there are no grounds on which an unlimited company can apply for an exemption from having to file financial statements with the Companies Registration Office under the Companies (Accounting) Act 2017.

The EU Accounting Directive (2013/34/EU), which is given effect in the Companies Act 2014 as amended by the Companies (Accounting) Act 2017, requires companies with limited liability to file their financial statements publicly. Neither EU or Irish accounting law requires companies with unlimited liability to file financial statements publicly. However, where an unlimited company has de facto limited liability then they must comply with the requirement to publicly file financial statements with the Companies Registration Office as for limited companies.

Section 1274 of the 2014 Act sets out the types of unlimited companies, ‘designated ULCs’, that must file financial statements. These include ULCs that are subsidiaries of a limited company or ULCs made up of members who are all limited companies or ULCs that are banks or insurance companies.

The requirements in section 1274(2)(a)(iii) for the filing of financial statements by an ULC that is a holding company of limited liability subsidiaries will commence on 1 January 2022.

Redundancy Payments

Questions (36)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

36. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the rule to stop employees claiming redundancy during the emergency period will be extended past 31 March 2021; if persons who have lost their jobs will be able to claim redundancy for the period of 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7346/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Section 12A of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 is the emergency provision which suspends an employee’s entitlement to claim redundancy from their employer, following certain periods of lay-off or short time work due to Covid-19, for the duration of the emergency period.

The decision to extend this suspension to 31st March 2021 was a difficult one and was disappointing for those employees who are experiencing uncertainty. But in making this decision the Government was conscious that Quarter 1 of 2021 will be particularly difficult for employers with ongoing closures and restrictions. We had to consider the need to ensure businesses survive and that permanent job losses and insolvency situations are avoided as much as possible.

It was also considered that an extension of the end-date was important for employees to ensure that they have a continued link to their job and a pathway to return. The Pandemic Unemployment Payment will remain open until the end of March 2021 in order to support affected employees as will the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.

A decision on a further extension has not been made at this stage. In the deliberations, regard will be had to the criteria and principles underpinning the emergency provision, the public health and labour market situations and the views of the social partners.

Reckonable service is service that is to be taken into account when calculating a redundancy payment. Reckonable service is regarded as a week within continuous employment which the employee is actually at work or is absent from work due to specific reasons such as periods of sickness or holidays.

The Act specifies the various types of absences which are allowable and not allowable as reckonable service for the purpose of the calculation. A period of lay-off within the final 3 years of service before redundancy is not allowable as reckonable service and is not included as service for the purposes of the calculation of the redundancy lump sum payment.

EU Issues

Questions (37)

Gerald Nash

Question:

37. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Government will join the qualified majority in support of the compromise text on public by-country reporting agreed by the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council, given that the clarity sought by Ireland and other member states on whether this file should progress through special legislative procedure or through ordinary legislative procedure has been provided by the Council legal service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7423/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Ireland supports transparency and good governance including “country by country” reporting by MNEs to national tax authorities. The Finance Act 2015 introduced obligations for relevant companies to report to the Revenue Commissioners.

The Proposal for a Directive to amend Directive 2013/34/EU (the Accounting Directive) as regards disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches (country by country reporting) was made by the EU Commission in April 2016.

Dáil Éireann adopted a Reasoned Opinion in June 2016 to the effect that this proposed Directive is a tax matter and does not meet the principle of subsidiarity. The Reasoned Opinion is available at 2016-06-30_report-on-com-2016-198_en.pdf (oireachtas.ie).

The Proposal was on the Competitiveness Council Agenda on 28 November 2019 where there was not sufficient support for the Presidency’s Proposal and no general approach reached. Ireland supported a Joint Statement to the Competitiveness Council in November 2019 which agreed with the opinion of the Council Legal Service that the legal basis for this Proposal should be Taxation (Article 115 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), and therefore, should be considered by ECOFIN Council with unanimity voting. This measure should have the benefit of tax expertise to ensure that it is consistent with existing reporting requirements and, importantly, with the international cooperation and exchange of information arrangements, which are based on confidentiality. Tax experts are best placed to ensure that international efforts to collect income tax from multinational corporations will not be undermined by new measures.

The next Competitiveness Council will be an Informal one by video conference on 25 February 2021. The final agenda and papers for this meeting have not yet issued.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions Nos. 39 to 41, inclusive, answered with Question No. 23.

Questions (38)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

38. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to his statement of 17 December 2020 on political involvement in the purchase of ventilators from a company (details supplied), if a Minister had signed off on the deal at the time; the due diligence carried out on the company in question; and if an update on his findings will be provided to this Deputy. [7436/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

As the procurement of medical equipment is a matter for the Health Service Executive this question is more appropriate to the Minister for Health.

Questions Nos. 39 to 41, inclusive, answered with Question No. 23.

Horticulture Sector

Questions (42)

Martin Browne

Question:

42. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the carbon emissions of Ireland's 5,500 ha of bog used for horticultural peat harvesting per annum; and the reduction in emissions envisaged for 2021 and 2022 through the use of imported peat. [7082/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Environmental Protections Agency's National Inventory Report 2020 sets out emissions from different land use sectors. While wetlands, which covers areas used for peat production, was a net emitter of approximately 1.5 Mt CO2 equivalent in 2018, bog rehabilitation and restoration will playa key role in tackling our climate and biodiversity challenges in the coming decades.

To support the role of peatlands in providing nature-based solutions to tackle climate change,the Government, in November 2020, approved funding of up to €108m for Bord Na Móna's Enhanced Decommissioning, Rehabilitation and Restoration Scheme. This scheme will support a just transition in the Midlands region, while protecting the storage of 100m tonnes of carbon and avoiding the release of a further 3.2m tonnes out to 2050; enhance biodiversity; create jobs; and contribute to Ireland's objective of being climate-neutral by 2050.

While my Department has no direct role in relation to the horticulture sector, a working group is being established by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to examine the future role of peat in the horticulture sector, with the focus on identifying alternatives for peat-use in horticulture.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (43)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

43. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the reason Ireland has not submitted a final long-term climate strategy to the European Commission as was required by 1 January 2020 under Article 15 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the governance of the energy union and climate action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6358/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Substantial work has been undertaken in developing Ireland’s Long-term Strategy on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction, which will identify pathways to achieve a climate neutral economy by 2050. The strategy, reflecting the increased climate ambition set out in the Programme for Government, will identify specific indicative pathways to achieve a climate neutral economy by 2050, underpinned by analysis of transition options across all key sectors of the economy, including energy, the built environment, transport, enterprise, waste, agriculture and land use.

The development of the strategy has been informed by extensive consultation and engagement with Departments, Agencies, Commercial Semi-States and the public. A total of 404 submissions were received in response to a public consultation, which asked respondents to consider 26 specific questions in relation to potential decarbonisation pathways for Ireland to 2050.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill includes provision for the preparation of national long term climate action strategy. It is my intention that once the Bill is enacted, the Long-term Strategy will be completed, and will meet the requirements of both the EU Governance Regulation and our new national climate legislation.

Environmental Protection Agency

Questions (44)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

44. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications when he will make appointments to the EPA advisory board given that the term of office of most of its members expired in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6360/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992, provides that the Agency is assisted by an Advisory Committee of up to twelve members, appointed in accordance with Section 27 of the Act.

The functions of the Advisory Committee are set out in Section 28 of the 1992 Act, and include making recommendations to the EPA, or to the Minister, relating to the functions of the EPA.  The Committee is an important resource for the EPA, particularly in relation to matters of scientific and public concern relating to the environment. It also provides an informed, independent perspective on the EPA’s activities.

The term of office of nine members of the Advisory Committee of the EPA expired on 4 December 2019. In line with the 1992 Act, these nine vacancies fall to be filled from two separate processes. 

Six of the vacancies are to be filled by nominations from five categories of organisations, as prescribed by the Minister in accordance with Section 27 of the 1992 Act. Nominations in respect of these prescribing organisations have been received by my Department and I am currently considering these.

A further three positions on the Advisory Committee fall to be filled by appointments to be selected directly by me in accordance with Section 27 of the 1992 Act.  In this respect, I recently undertook a call for applications for these positions, which was managed on my behalf by the Public Appointments Service, and concluded on 18 December 2020.

Arising from these separate processes, I anticipate making appointments to fill all current vacancies on the EPA's Advisory Committee shortly.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (45)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

45. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if the requested information on the state aid complaints in respect of the national broadband plan has been supplied to the European Commission . [6428/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department provided the necessary information to the European Commission on 17 January 2020 and 7 May 2020.