Small and Medium Enterprises

Questions (7)

Brendan Smith

Question:

7. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the additional supports he plans to introduce to assist small and medium enterprises to develop online businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7850/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Trading online is a very important route for retail businesses to grow and improve their business in the current crisis and will be an important element in their recovery over the longer term. The Local Enterprise Offices continue to offer the very successful Trading Online Voucher Scheme which offers financial assistance in the form of a Voucher of up to €2,500 in order to procure expert consultancy advice on trading on-line including website management and is delivered along with training and advice to help business trade online.

My Department also funds, through Enterprise Ireland, the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme in response to the COVID-19 crisis for companies which are indigenous retailers, employing 10 or more people, have an existing online presence (e.g. website or social media), and have a retail outlet through which they derive the majority of their revenue.

185 retailers were funded under the Call One of the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme, with a total of €6.6 million awarded. 145 retailers were funded under Call Two the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme, with a total of €5.3m awarded.

The Report of the SME Taskforce "SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan" which was published last month sets out a wide range of recommendations with long-term strategic relevance for SMEs and entrepreneurs. The recommendations in the Report include measures to support the digitalisation of small and medium businesses. The Report's recommendations will be reviewed and taken forward, as appropriate, by a Ministerial-led SME and Entrepreneurship Implementation Group over the coming months, including those related to the uptake of competitive digital transformation schemes.

Trade Relations

Questions (8)

Réada Cronin

Question:

8. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the safeguards in place to uphold Ireland’s responsibilities under the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to prevent Ireland being party to or becoming entangled in a supply chain dispute on labour given the status of the State as a hub for global supply chains (details supplied). [7875/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Ireland remains committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda and a ‘whole of Government’ approach to implementation continues, as set out in the ‘Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2020’.

The Programme for Government was developed with close consideration of Ireland’s responsibilities under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and their centrepiece 17 goals. The programme provides specific reference to delivering on objectives in line with the SDGs in many areas.

The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) will lead the development of Ireland’s second SDG National Implementation Plan in 2021. Both the SDG interdepartmental governance structure and the SDG Stakeholder Forum with key input from civil society and relevant sectors will support this work in ensuring Ireland upholds its SDG responsibilities.

Monitoring and reporting is a key part of ensuring Ireland continues its progress towards targets set out under the Sustainable Development Goals. Monitoring progress through the Central Statistics Office (CSO) SDG GeoHive and regular updating of the Policy Map Matrix of the Goals will help ensure that Ireland upholds its responsibilities under the Sustainable Development Goals. This monitoring will also allow for more coherent implementation of the Goals.

Specifically, in relation to labour exploitation, the Department of Foreign Affairs is the lead Department on target 8.7 under the UN Sustainable Development Goals which aims to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, including child labour - as set out under the Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2020.

In 2017, the National Plan on Business and Human Rights was launched to give effect to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The National Plan, overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs, aims to promote responsible business practices at home and overseas, including in developing countries, by all Irish business enterprises. This first national plan contains a range of actions, which are being implemented across government. Through the term of this plan Ireland has continued to engage with international partners through its annual participation in the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.

In the coming months, the Government will publish a toolkit for Irish companies to help guide them in discharging their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This will be a valuable resource for Irish business – providing information, guidance and a number of case studies provided by businesses that have embraced the UN Guiding Principles and can provide valuable learnings and advice.

In the first half of 2021 there will be a preliminary review of the progress made in implementing the first National Plan. Later in the year, the Government will begin to develop the second iteration of the Plan.

The second National Plan will be informed by the initiative underway in the European Commission to bring forward legislative proposals in the area of sustainable corporate governance. The Commission will propose changes to the EU regulatory framework on company law and corporate governance, to ensure that companies focus on long-term sustainable value creation, rather than short-term benefits. The aim is to help companies to better manage sustainability-related matters in their own operations and value chains as regards social and human rights, climate change, the environment, and so on. We expect to see the detail of this proposal in Q2 this year.

Safeguards in the areas of sustainable development and labour are further strengthened by Ireland’s membership and engagement with the International Labour Organisation. In 2017, Ireland took up a Titulaire Seat on the Governing Body of the ILO for the first time. This will allow Ireland to further its input into international business and human rights through the ILO.

From a Trade Policy perspective, Ireland supports the broader positive EU approach to sustainable development through efforts to ensure that there are strong and ambitious chapters on Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), as part of the EU’s value-based trade policy, that are consistent with international legal commitments and standards. Furthermore,

the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) also seeks to play a role in promoting the Sustainability agenda.

In addition, Ireland seeks to promote responsible business conduct through my Department’s hosting of the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which aim to encourage the positive contributions that multinational enterprises can make to economic, environmental and social progress and to minimise the difficulties to which their various operations may give rise.

Brexit Issues

Questions (9, 10)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

9. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a derogation for flour coming from the UK to Ireland can be issued for a company (details supplied). [7925/21]

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Patrick Costello

Question:

10. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the post-Brexit reality of the application of the rules of origin laws that sees Irish bread producers facing higher production costs than their UK counterparts due to having to import flour that is not being milled domestically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7976/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 10 together.

I am acutely aware of the issues that have arisen for the bakery sector as identified by the Deputies. I fully understand that despite making preparations in advance for Brexit, agreeing the full terms of the TCA so close to 1 January 2021 did not allow many sectors, including the bakery sector, to prepare for the implications arising under the specific Rules of Origin provisions of the Agreement. This has led, in this case, to the imposition of tariffs on imports of particular flour from the UK given the level of non-UK/non-EU wheat input contained in that particular flour.

At its simplest, the Rules of Origin are the premise upon which any Free Trade Agreement (FTA) seeks to confer the preferential tariff rates - zero in the case of the TCA - on the members of the Free Trade Area encompassed by the FTA, namely the UK and EU-27 in this instance. Moreover, it is usual that Product Specific Rules of Origin will set out how much, if any, non-originating or Third Country inputs that is permitted before exceeding the relevant thresholds to enjoy the tariff preferences/benefits of the FTA. In this case, an upper limit of 15% Third Country wheat input to UK exports of flour to the EU is allowable under the TCA and currently, the UK flour being imported by the sector contains 45% Canadian wheat which puts it outside of the scope for benefiting from the preferential tariff rates. Pre-Brexit, the trade agreement between the EU and Canada addressed this issue but the UK is no longer a beneficiary of CETA and there is no three-way Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the UK and the EU. Therefore, supply chain changes would be needed to fully benefit from the terms of the TCA.

Furthermore, my Department and I are fully conscious of the potential employment and cost implications arising for the sector as the industry representatives have made clear, as well as possible price implications for consumers. I also recognise the competitive disadvantage that the sector faces in retaining UK market share when faced with competitors that are not affected by the tariffs given how the Irish sector's supply chains have been constructed over many years.

Officials in my Department and right across Government continue to work intensively to work through possible technical solutions to address issues arising for the sector from the conclusion of the TCA. In the case of the tariffs on flour, my officials have examined the issue with colleagues in Revenue to explore what technical solutions may be available within the terms of the TCA, including that of using Inward Processing relief. Such Inward Processing solutions can assist companies in terms of retaining UK market share, but I appreciate that it does not provide a complete solution for the issues presenting on the domestic market. In that latter regard, I recently wrote to the Commission Executive Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis on the issue and raised the matter with him when we spoke last week. I highlighted for the Commission the extent of the sector’s reliance on the UK, with over 80% of the flour imported from the UK, a factor that is compounded by the lack of indigenous milling capacity on the island of Ireland. Furthermore, given that the conclusion of the TCA in late December did not allow time for the sector to make the necessary adjustments in its supply chains, I have asked the Commission Services to examine the issue to consider any flexibilities that can be applied and I await the Commission's considered response.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (11)

Michael Creed

Question:

11. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the situation regarding dual purpose stores (details supplied) will be clarified; and the entitlement of dual purpose stores and their continued trade in non-essential items to the detriment of stores already closed by level 5 regulations. [8007/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19, only essential retail outlets will remain open. Further information can be found on https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/ The decision to move to full scale Level 5 was not taken lightly and all factors were considered. All measures in Level 5 will stay in place until at least March 5 2021.

S.I. No. 701 of 2020 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 and S.I. No. 4 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/) clearly sets out the temporary restrictions under Level 5. A list of essential services can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/ and the list of essential retail outlets at Level 5 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/60ecc-essential-retail-outlets-for-level-5/

Level 5 does not restrict people from purchasing any product, it does however restrict people from physically going into non-essential stores. This is to stop people making unnecessary journeys, congregating and browsing for non-essential goods, to limit the spread of the virus.

Under the current temporary restrictions click and collect from non-essential retail outlets is no longer permitted. Click or phone and deliver will continue.

Retailers can and have made arrangements, on compassionate grounds, for individual customers to urgently purchase a non-essential item in store. This is only in exceptional circumstances where it is not possible to plan ahead and avail of remote ordering services such as in emergencies, e.g., admission to hospital.

We are asking retailers to fully get behind the spirit of the regulations. In particular, we are asking retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail to make arrangements for the separation of relevant areas.

An Garda Síochána are engaging with retailers and enforcing the regulations where necessary.

We are asking retailers to operate staggered opening and closing hours, as well as facilitating starting and finishing hours, in order to minimise the impact on public transport and to continue to provide dedicated hours for vulnerable customers.

My colleague Minister English has met regularly with Retail Forum members and representatives from the retail, grocery and distribution sector to continuously assess adherence to the public health restrictions.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) ‘The Work Safely Protocol’ incorporates the current advice on the Public Health measures needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and workplaces. The Protocol is available on www.gov.ie

The HSA is the lead agency in overseeing compliance with the Protocol in the workplace. If employers or employees need further guidance on the Protocol, the HSA Helpline can be contacted at 1890 289 389 or wcu@hsa.ie

In addition, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) have also produced two guidance documents, one for the retail Sector and one for Shopping Centres. Both documents can be found on www.nsai.ie

The Government has introduced a wide range of supports to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and they can be found on my Department’s website https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

I would like to thank retailers and their customers for their efforts at this difficult time. By each of us following the spirit of these new rules and working together we can hopefully return to a lower level of the Living with COVID-19 framework.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (12)

John Lahart

Question:

12. Deputy John Lahart asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the important role that wedding planners play in the wedding industry; his views on whether wedding planning is a stand-alone business; if he will consider introducing financial assistance for wedding planners to mitigate the severe impact of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8095/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I understand the enormous difficulties the wedding industry is facing as the pandemic rolls on. I fully appreciate that it is one of the industries worst affected and for the longest and know that as we enter a second year of restrictions many in the sector must be fearing for their future. I do hope that once the pandemic is over the wedding sector will have a number of good years with so many weddings postponed. In the meantime, the Government wants to make sure as many businesses as possible survive to see that day.

The financial support the Government is providing businesses and workers affected by the pandemic is unprecedented. Almost a million people of working age are now in receipt of weekly payments including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), Employment Wage Subsidy (EWSS) and Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Support for business includes the weekly CRSS payment for businesses forced to close their doors to the public, reduced VAT rates, a commercial rates holiday, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as well as low cost loans.

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 €7 billion July Stimulus 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.

The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The new scheme, announced this week, the COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority. While the grant is modest, it will help smaller businesses in particular to cover these costs – rent, insurance, utilities, security.

The Government is very much open to proposals from the wedding sector as to how we can help further. However, Government schemes to support businesses are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.

My colleagues, 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.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (13)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

13. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the financial supports available to a business (details supplied). [8138/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I am keenly aware that all types of businesses are making a continued massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government will offer as much assistance and support as possible.

The €7bn July Stimulus package and Budget 2021 provided a significant range of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. These measures include the Wage Subsidy Scheme, 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. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed 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 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.

In addition to the CRSS and other measures announced in the budget, such as the €50 million fund for live entertainment, on 9 February I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), which is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes designed to help with fixed costs.

I can assure the Deputy that all COVID-19 Business Schemes, are closely monitored and will be adapted as circumstances dictate.

My colleague, Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, may be able to provide more specific details on assistance and on a roadmap to recovery for the events and hospitality industry, for which she has lead responsibility.

Work Permits

Questions (14)

Michael Creed

Question:

14. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the further issue of work permits for the dairy sector; if existing holders of dairy work permits are entitled to move after a period of 12 months from one employer to another dairy operator in cases in which the original employer has ceased farming; if so, the person obliged to organise the further employment; the persons who are required to be notified; if the permit holder can secure further employment to their satisfaction if they are entitled to organise employment themselves; if agents who organised the original work permit can charge fees for reallocation of workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8180/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The employment permits regime is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA nationals to fill skills and/or labour shortages, however, this objective must be balanced by the need to ensure that there are no suitably qualified Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that the shortage is a genuine one.

The employment permits system managed through the operation of the critical skills and the ineligible occupations lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for consideration for an employment permit. The lists are subject to twice yearly reviews which are evidence based and are guided by available research, a public consultation and input from the relevant policy Departments and the Economic Migration Inter-Departmental Group, chaired by the Department.

The pilot quota-based scheme introduced in May 2018 following consideration of a detailed business case submitted by the sector, provided a quota of 150 general employment permits for the occupation of Dairy Farm Assistant. This pilot scheme has proved very successful for a range of employers in the sector and the quota of 150 employment permits is now exhausted and has not been extended. Consideration of the submissions received to the current occupation list review is underway with the review scheduled to be finalised in early March.

Last month, Minister of State Damien English TD, engaged with the Irish Farmers Association and Producers on matters relating to employment in the agri-food sector in Ireland.

All permits granted are employer and employee specific and granted for the purposes of the employment stated on the permit. Where a permit holder wishes to change employer a new application for an employment permit should be made. As the quota of Dairy Farm Assistant is currently expired, at present no further general employment permits can issue for the role of Dairy Farm Assistant.

Applications for employment permits may be made by either the employer or the employee. A range of information on submitting applications is available on the Department’s website. Arrangements made with an agency to submit an application on behalf of a party to an application are the responsibility of the applicant to the application. Employment permit legislation prohibits deductions in respect of employment permit application process from employee remuneration.

If an employment is the first for which they have held an employment permit in Ireland, the permit holder is expected to remain in that employment for a period of twelve months before applying for a new employment permit. After that period on their first employment, it is open to the permit holder to change employer, and/or employment provided they secure employment in an eligible occupation and subject to the terms and conditions of the application process. However, employment permit holders are permitted to change their employer within the first 12 months of their first employment in the State in circumstances, such as redundancy, or where circumstances (unforeseen at time of application) arise in the employment that fundamentally change the employment relationship.

This stipulation strikes a reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the employer’s expectations that the foreign national remain in his or her employment for a reasonable period of time given the costs involved in recruiting that foreign national from abroad, and, on the other hand, not unduly binding the foreign national to the employer.

In certain circumstances the non-EEA national may be entitled to a reactivation employment permit which isn't linked to the employment permit occupation lists. My Department should be notified of any change in circumstances.

If the Deputy is referring to a particular situation, he can engage directly with officials in the Employment Permit Section who can go through the specific issues and advise on the appropriate course of action.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Questions (15, 20)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

15. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has considered sending the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement to the relevant Oireachtas committee for proper scrutiny of its provisions prior to a final vote in Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8209/21]

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Holly Cairns

Question:

20. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that several local authorities including Cork City Council have passed motions seeking Houses of the Oireachtas scrutiny of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement before a potential ratification; if he will consider these motions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8367/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 20 together.

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a modern and progressive Free Trade Agreement which provides new market opportunities across many sectors for Irish firms. CETA is a comprehensive, high-standard agreement, underpinned by EU values and principles. It has applied provisionally since September 2017 and 15 EU Member States have so far completed their domestic ratification processes.

As Ireland is a small advanced economy dependent on international trade and investment to support economic growth and development, Ireland supports the EU bilateral trade agenda whereby we seek to open up greater market opportunities through the suite of EU-Third Country Free Trade and/or Investment Protection Agreements in support of economic growth and development and ever-improving employment opportunities for our people.

In that context, I look forward to discussing and debating further this important Agreement and having the opportunity to highlight in detail the benefits that CETA provides for businesses and citizens alike. It is now intended that it will receive further scrutiny at Oireachtas Committee level to ensure thorough consideration before it is ratified. I look forward to the opportunity of bringing the relevant ratification motion back before the Dáil.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (16)

Michael Ring

Question:

16. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is a financial scheme open to taxi drivers to help them with the cost of insurance in view of the fact that their revenue stream has been eradicated due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. [8257/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

There is no doubt that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary health restrictions have had significant effects on the lives and livelihoods of our people, and the Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic. This includes the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. COVID-19 Business Loans up to €25,000 are available through Microfinance Ireland. The loans can range from €5,000 to €25,000.

Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

The introduction of specific measures for taxi and hackney businesses by my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, TD, were announced as part of Budget 2021. Minister Ryan is providing funding to the National Transport Authority to enable it to waive annual vehicle licence renewal fees for 2021. In addition, there is an allocation of €15 million to support up to 750 taxi and hackney drivers in scrapping older vehicles and replacing them with zero-emission capable electric alternatives. Up to €20,000 will be made available for eligible drivers switching to a new all-electric vehicle and up to €32,500 for those moving to a wheelchair accessible full electric vehicle.

My colleague, Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Social Protection, opened applications for the revamped Enterprise Support Grant of up to €1,000 for self-employed recipients when exiting the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This grant is aimed at sole traders such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, taxi drivers and so on, who do not pay commercial rates. Taxi drivers in receipt of the PUP can earn up to €480/month and retain their payment.

The insurance sector has an important role to play in assisting their customers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been recognised in the Programme for Government which sets out a range of commitments to reform the insurance sector in Ireland. These include addressing legal reforms; addressing fraud; increasing competition and enhancing the role of the PIAB. The Government has established a Sub-Group on Insurance Reform under the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment to drive implementation of these commitments. The Action Plan for Insurance Reform can be viewed on gov.ie.

Brexit Issues

Questions (17)

Neale Richmond

Question:

17. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has engaged with his UK counterpart on the decision of the UK Government not to publish an impact assessment of the UK-EU trade deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8306/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I very much welcome the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the creation of a new framework for the EU-UK relationship.

The Agreement which covers market access provisions, tariff-free and quota-free trade as well as provisions aimed at preventing unnecessary technical barriers and requirements, is very welcome although it represents a significant departure from the trading environment that previously obtained between Ireland and the UK.

It is less than two months since the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into effect and, while businesses are currently experiencing the more immediate impacts of new customs documentation and SPS checks, it will take some time before we fully understand the medium and longer term impacts of the Agreement on sectors of the Irish economy.

That is of course where my focus lies. I have no role or function in relation to the UK Government's intentions with regard to any examination or impact assessment that they might consider on the impacts on the UK economy of the EU-UK trade deal.

Brexit Issues

Questions (18)

Neale Richmond

Question:

18. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the sectors that stand to benefit most and least, respectively, from the EU-UK trade deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8307/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

First of all, I very much welcome the conclusion of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement negotiations and the creation of a new framework for the EU-UK relationship. There were several occasions during the long negotiation process where a no deal scenario was a possible outcome, so a deal that includes market access provisions, tariff-free and quota-free trade as well as provisions aimed at preventing unnecessary technical barriers and requirements, is very welcome.

Having said that, the post Brexit trading environment does not allow for seamless trading that we previously enjoyed with the UK and businesses will inevitably face challenges as the framework underpinning the previous trading relationship with the UK has ended. Currently, we are seeing some short term impacts arising from new customs and SPS checks and controls and supply chains will in time adjust to their new arrangements and documentary requirements.

We are just approaching the 7 week mark since the Agreement came into effect and it is still much too early to ascertain the medium to longer term effects the Agreement will have on the various sectors of the economy.

In my reply - no. 135 on 17 December 2020 - to Deputy Richmond I set out the results of earlier analysis carried out in 2018 and later in January 2020 on the likely impacts of Brexit on key sectors of the Irish economy. The analysis identified five sectors that account for 90% of the Brexit impact and are the Agri-Food, Pharma-Chemicals, Electrical Machinery, Wholesale & Retail, and Air Transport sectors. Of these five sectors, the Agri-Food sector was shown to be the most impacted in both a trade deal or no-deal scenario.

IDA Ireland has of course been actively seeking to realise opportunities arising from Brexit-related investment to Ireland. Two-thirds of the over 90 new Brexit-related investments to date are in financial services, reflecting Ireland’s strength as a destination for activity in the sector. Ireland has also won Brexit-related investments in Life Sciences; Technology, Business & Consumer Services; & Engineering. These total new investments come with an associated jobs potential of 6,000.

My Department will continue to monitor and work with all sectors in the economy as they experience Brexit fallout while dealing in parallel with COVID-19. On Brexit, we are actively engaging across Government with hauliers and logistics companies, shipping companies, retailers, and business stakeholders to manage the issues arising from the new trading relationship with the UK.

I am committed to ensuring that the most impacted sectors of the economy will be given the State assistance they require. The proposal to allocate €1 billion in the first tranche of the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve to Ireland is welcome and is strong recognition for the fact that Ireland is one of the most impacted Member States by Brexit. The fund will be used to mitigate the worst impacts of Brexit for the most impacted sectors in the economy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 15.

Questions (19)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

19. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason clubs (details supplied) have been excluded from Covid-19 support schemes; if there is a plan to include them in a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8334/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I am keenly aware that all types of businesses are making a continued massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government will offer as much assistance and support as possible.

The €7bn July Stimulus package and 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. These measures include the Wage Subsidy Scheme, 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. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed 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 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.

In addition to the CRSS and other measures announced in the budget, such as the €50 million fund for live entertainment, on 9th February I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), which is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes designed to help with fixed costs.

I can assure the Deputy that all COVID-19 Business Schemes, are closely monitored and will be adapted as circumstances dictate.

My colleague, Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, may be able to provide more specific details assistance for clubs and on a roadmap to recovery for the events and hospitality industry, for which she has lead responsibility.

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 15.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (21)

Holly Cairns

Question:

21. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to a tailored support package available to the weddings industry in Scotland; his plans to introduce a similar package here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8368/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I understand the enormous difficulties the wedding industry is facing as the pandemic rolls on. I fully appreciate that it is one of the industries worst affected and for the longest and know that as we enter a second year of restrictions many in the sector must be fearing for their future. I do hope that once the pandemic is over the wedding sector will have a number of good years with so many weddings postponed. In the meantime, the Government wants to make sure as many businesses as possible survive to see that day.

The financial support the Government is providing businesses and workers affected by the pandemic is unprecedented. Almost a million people of working age are now in receipt of weekly payments including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, Employment Wage Subsidy and Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Support for business includes the weekly CRSS payment for businesses forced to close their doors to the public, reduced VAT rates, a commercial rates holiday, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as well as low-cost loans.

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 €7 billion July Stimulus 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.

The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The new scheme announced this week, the COVID Business Aid Scheme will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority. While the grant is modest, it will help smaller businesses in particular to cover these costs – rent, insurance, utilities, security.

The Government is very much open to proposals from the wedding sector as to how we can help further. However, Government schemes to support businesses are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided, and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.

My colleagues, 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.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (22)

Neale Richmond

Question:

22. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Covid-19 supports available to businesses which do not fall into either the established relevant business activity or new relevant business activity under the Covid restrictions support scheme and as such cannot avail of its supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8433/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

On 9th February last I announced a new €60m Scheme called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes such as CRSS and to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover and who are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority can benefit, including those that commenced at the end of 2019.

We are committed to helping businesses respond to the economic challenges arising from the pandemic with a particular focus on firms that do not qualify for the weekly CRSS grant from the Revenue Commissioners or existing sectorial schemes in areas such as the arts, transport and tourism. The new CBAS will help some businesses that are not eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public. We estimate that this will help approximately 7,500 businesses. While the grant is modest it will be of substantial assistance to smaller businesses with some of their fixed costs like rent, utilities and security.

I and my colleagues across Government will continue to keep the range of measures under review.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (23)

Neale Richmond

Question:

23. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if front-facing businesses that do not qualify for the Covid restrictions support scheme as they are neither an established relevant business activity or a new relevant business activity as they began trading in December 2020 will be eligible for the forthcoming Covid-19 business aid scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8434/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

On 9th February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes such as CRSS and is designed to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover and in receipt of a rates bill may benefit, including those that commenced after the 1st November 2019 where their turnover is below projections.

We are committed to helping businesses respond to the economic challenges arising from the pandemic with a particular focus on firms that do not qualify for the weekly CRSS grant from the Revenue Commissioners or existing sectorial schemes in areas such as the arts, transport and tourism.

This new CBAS will help some businesses that are not eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public. We estimate that this will help approximately 7,500 businesses. While the grant is modest it will be of substantial assistance to smaller businesses with some of their fixed costs like rent, utilities and security.

I and my colleagues across Government will continue to monitor the range of measures in place to support businesses.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (24)

Pauline Tully

Question:

24. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications that have been received for the restart fund for micro and small businesses by Cavan County Council; the amount of funding that has been allocated to the authority; the number of businesses that have received funding under the fund in County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8552/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus schemes were designed to help small and medium sized businesses get back on their feet after what has been an exceptionally difficult time. The Restart Grant scheme was launched on 15 May with a budget of €250 million. The Restart Grant Plus scheme was launched on 10 August with an additional budget of €300m from the Government’s July Jobs Stimulus as a result of the increasing demand for the scheme.

The purpose of the schemes was to help with the cost of reopening or adapting business premises so that normal business could resume. Grant payments were administered by the Local Authorities via the commercial rates system as this was considered the most effective means to get urgent financial assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Restart Grant Plus scheme closed to new applications on 31 October and the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) operated by the Revenue Commissioners is now in place.

The Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

On 9th February last I announced a new €60m Scheme called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes such as CRSS and to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover and who are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority can benefit, including those that commenced at the end of 2019.

In response to the Deputy’s specific question and as at 12 February 2021, Cavan County Council has awarded Restart Grant payments to 1025 businesses to a total value of €3,071,491. The total amount of funding allocated to the Council under the Restart Grant Scheme was €3,268,147.

In terms of the Restart Grant Plus Scheme, Cavan County Council awarded Restart Grant Plus payments to 1047 businesses to a total value of €6,763,704. The total amount of funding allocated to the Council under the Restart Grant Plus Scheme was €6,779,604.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (25)

Pauline Tully

Question:

25. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications that have been received for the restart fund for micro and small businesses by Monaghan County Council; the funding that has been allocated to the authority; the number of businesses that have received funding under the fund in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8553/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus schemes were designed to help small and medium sized businesses get back on their feet after what has been an exceptionally difficult time. The Restart Grant scheme was launched on 15 May with a budget of €250 million. The Restart Grant Plus scheme was launched on 10 August with an additional budget of €300m from the Government’s July Jobs Stimulus as a result of the increasing demand for the scheme.

The purpose of the schemes was to help with the cost of reopening or adapting business premises so that normal business could resume. Grant payments were administered by the Local Authorities via the commercial rates system as this was considered the most effective means to get urgent financial assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Restart Grant Plus scheme closed to new applications on 31 October and the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) operated by the Revenue Commissioners is now in place.

The Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

On 9th February last I announced a new €60m Scheme called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes such as CRSS and to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover and who are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority can benefit, including those that commenced at the end of 2019.

In response to the Deputy’s specific question and as at 12 February 2021, Monaghan County Council has awarded Restart Grant payments to 834 businesses to a total value of €2,791,392. The total amount of funding allocated to the Council under the Restart Grant Scheme was €3,251,425.

In terms of the Restart Grant Plus Scheme, Monaghan County Council awarded Restart Grant Plus payments to 2029 businesses to a total value of €6,566,366. The total amount of funding allocated to the Council under the Restart Grant Plus Scheme was €6,106,253.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (26)

Pauline Tully

Question:

26. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications for supports under the various schemes for businesses impacted by Covid-19 that have been received from businesses in County Cavan; the number that have been processed to date; the number that have been successful; the amount allocated to these businesses; the amount that was sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8556/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

From my Department's perspective, the information which the Deputy is seeking is available, on a by-county basis, for programmes of the following bodies:

- Enterprise Ireland

- The Local Enterprise Office

- The Local Authorities who administer the Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus schemes

- The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

- Microfinance Ireland

- Intertrade Ireland.

The information is contained in the attached document.

[<ahref="https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/debates/questions/supportingDocumentation/2021-02-17_pq26-17-02-21_en.docx">Cavan supports</a>]

This information does not reflect the breadth of Government schemes on COVID-19. The Deputy may wish to follow up with Ministers Donohoe or Humphreys regarding TWSS, CRSS, PUP and other schemes.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (27)

Pauline Tully

Question:

27. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications for supports under the various schemes for businesses impacted by Covid-19 that have been received from businesses in County Monaghan; the number that have been processed to date; the number that have been successful; the amount that has been allocated to these businesses; the amount that was sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8557/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

From my Department's perspective, the information which the Deputy is seeking is available, on a by-county basis, for programmes of the following bodies:

- Enterprise Ireland

- The Local Enterprise Offices

- The Local Authorities who administer the Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus schemes

- The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

- Microfinance Ireland

- Intertrade Ireland.

The information is contained in the attached document.

[&lt;ahref="https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/debates/questions/supportingDocumentation/2021-02-17_pq27-17-02-21_en.docx"&gt;Monaghan Covid Supports&lt;/a&gt;]

This information does not reflect the breadth of government schemes on COVID-19. The Deputy may wish to follow up with Ministers Donohoe or Humphreys regarding TWSS, CRSS, PUP and other schemes.

Foreign Direct Investment

Questions (28)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

28. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of foreign direct investment supported companies that have been set up in County Kerry in each of the years 2016 to 2020, in tabular form. [8595/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The South West Region has a dynamic and broad enterprise sector with predominance in Bio Pharmaceuticals, Technology (hardware and services) and Agri-Food, in addition to significant potential in tourism, Medical Technology, International Financial Services and Global Business Services. The South West Region comprises Cork and Kerry. Kerry has 17 IDA client companies employing 2,153 people. The new FDI companies that set up in Kerry between 2016 and 2020 are shown in the table below.

Year

No of New Name Investments in Co Kerry

2016

1

2017

0

2018

1

2019

0

2020

0

IDA Ireland remains strongly committed to winning new FDI to County Kerry reflected in the strong regional focus of IDA’s strategy; continued support to the existing base of IDA client companies in Kerry; IDA’s investment in the construction of an Advance Building Solution (ABS) in Tralee and securing of a client for the building and support to new investments by IDA client companies. IDA Ireland has committed to develop an additional Advance Building Solution in Tralee over the course of its current Strategy covering the period 2021 to 2024.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (29)

David Stanton

Question:

29. Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on allowing the resumption of click-and-collect services for clothing and footwear retailers to facilitate the sale of winter stock to make space and develop cash flow for the purchase of summer stock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8631/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19, only essential retail outlets will remain open. Further information can be found on https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/ The decision to move to full scale Level 5 was not taken lightly and all factors were considered. All measures in Level 5 will stay in place until at least March 5 2021.

S.I. No. 701 of 2020 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 and S.I. No. 4 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/) clearly sets out the temporary restrictions under Level 5. A list of essential services can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/ and the list of essential retail outlets at Level 5 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/60ecc-essential-retail-outlets-for-level-5/

Level 5 does not restrict people from purchasing any product, it does however restrict people from physically going into non-essential stores.

Under the current temporary restrictions click and collect from non-essential retail outlets is no longer permitted. Click or phone and deliver will continue. This decision is based on health advice and is to stop people making unnecessary journeys, congregating and browsing for non-essential goods, to limit the spread of the virus.

I am not in a position to give an indication as to when certain services can resume or certain sectors can re-open. The Government should be in a position to provide an update shortly.

Retailers can and have made arrangements, on compassionate grounds, for individual customers to urgently purchase a non-essential item in store. This is only in exceptional circumstances where it is not possible to plan ahead and avail of remote ordering services such as in emergencies, e.g., admission to hospital.

My colleague Minister English has met regularly with Retail Forum members and representatives from the retail, grocery and distribution sector to continuously assess adherence to the public health restrictions.

The Government has introduced a wide range of supports to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and they can be found on my Department’s website https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

I would like to thank retailers and their customers for their efforts at this difficult time. By each of us following the spirit of these new rules and working together we can hopefully return to a lower level of the Living with COVID-19 framework.

Import Costs

Questions (30)

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

30. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to address the 25% tariff on steel imports into Northern Ireland ultimately destined for Ireland and the feedback from the sector that this could have a potentially detrimental effect on construction costs here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8740/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The EU’s Safeguard Measures for steel were initiated in July 2018 in response to the United States applying a 25% tariff on steel imports originating from 3rd countries, including the European Union. The aim of the Measures is to manage the volume of steel entering the EU Single Market from 3rd countries as a consequent of the threat of EU market distortion by the dumping of steel originally intended for the US market onto the EU market as a result of the original US tariffs. The Measures currently in place allow for the importation of steel from 3rd countries by way of quotas, determined in line with traditional volumes of trade in steel. These current measures are due to expire at the end of June 2021, unless prolonged after a further review which is currently underway.

Due to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, as of 1 January 2021, the UK is no longer party to the EU’s Measures and the UK is now a 3rd country in relation to the application of the EU’s Safeguard Measures. In anticipation of the UK’s new status outside of the EU, in September 2020, the UK Government issued a notice stating that it would establish its own set of Safeguard Measures and calculated its own quota levels for imports of steel products from 3rd countries, including the EU into the UK.

Irish importers can continue to import steel from the UK without the additional "Safeguard" tariff of 25% if the volume of imports remains within the EU's quota allocations for the UK. Imports from the UK to Ireland, or other EU Member States, in excess of these quotas will attract a 25% tariff. Similarly, imports of steel from other 3rd countries into Ireland would only be subject to a 25% tariff if the exporting country exceeds the available quota. Importantly, however, Irish importers can continue to import steel from the rest of the EU as part of the Single Market where no tariffs or quotas apply.

In applying the Safeguard Measures, the European Commission has completed 2 reviews of the Measures, with the most recent review published in June 2020. The findings of that review included details on the availability of quotas for each product category. The Commission's review found that in the last quarter of year-2 of the measures (i.e. April - June 2020), a significant level of quotas remained unused, with quotas available in every product category.

The review also noted that as of 15 May 2020, there were 9 million tonnes, or 29% of the total quotas, available for use in year-2 of the Measures ('year-3' of the Measures began in July 2020). This would indicate that the application of the EU's Safeguard Measures does not affect the availability of supply, as quotas are not exhausted before the end of a given period. Quotas available for steel reflect traditional levels of trade in steel and the Commission's evidence suggests that the quotas are not being exhausted and that the market remains competitive.

Furthermore, neither my Department, nor any of our Enterprise Agencies, is aware of any supply concerns by industry regarding imports of steel into Ireland, however officials within the Department are engaged with industry groups to monitor any unforeseen impacts of the current measures.

Finally, it is my understanding that the Commission are examining possible amendments to Union legislation on tariff rate quotas to resolve issues relating to steel from Great Britain imported into Northern Ireland coming within the scope of the current Safeguard Measures. Officials in my Department will continue to monitor the situation and they remain actively engaged with the Commission on the matter including the interplay between the Measures and the Northern Ireland Protocol with the view of finalising how measures should operate and apply in respect of Northern Ireland.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (31)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

31. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by his Department over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contracts; and the length of the contract in tabular form. [8889/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

My Department has entered into one such contract since the 1st January 2021. Details of this contract are set out below.

Company

Purpose of Contract

Value of Contract

Length of Contract

Matrix Internet

Web Design and Development for a Climate Action Hub

Design, development and hosting of an online tool to assist businesses understand and address their greenhouse gas emissions. This project is partially funded by the Public Service Innovation Fund.

€76,750

6 months design and development. 3 years website hosting.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (32)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

32. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there has been any contact with his counterpart in the United States Administration. [8909/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Ms. Katherine Tai has been nominated by President Biden to serve as the next United States Trade Representative (USTR), a cabinet level role which will see Ms. Tai act as President Biden's principle advisor/negotiator on all US trade policy related matters. Ms. Tai can only take up her office following confirmation of her nomination by the US Senate. However, I know that EU Commission Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis will seek to meet with Ms. Tai at the earliest opportunity in order to discuss the full range of EU-US trade relations including many shared priorities for Ireland.

Both the EU Commission and Member State Trade Ministers, including myself, continue to have the transatlantic trade and investment relationship as a key policy priority.

Bilaterally, Ireland and the US have a long-standing trade and investment relationship based on broadly similar values and interests that has proved hugely beneficial in many ways for both our countries. In that regard, Ireland remains fully invested in and committed to a continued strong partnership with the US. Top level engagement with the new US Administration aimed at resetting the EU-US trade relationship and the elimination of existing tariffs is an EU priority which would represent a positive development for trade and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic and something I am strongly invested in and support at EU Trade Minister level.

Pending the appointment of the next USTR, my officials have maintained ongoing contact with the Office of the USTR both from Dublin, most recently with a senior officials meeting by VC in late January, and from Washington, where my Department's Trade Counsellor and his colleagues in the Embassy led by our Ambassador are in continuous engagement with the Office of the USTR.

Ms. Gina Raimondo, the current Governor of Rhode Island, has been nominated as the next Commerce Secretary and is awaiting confirmation by the Senate. A Hearing of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has taken place and the Committee subsequently met on the 3 February 2021 to vote on her nomination. A full Senate vote is awaited before Ms. Raimondo is confirmed in post.

The US Department of Labor’s mission includes the protection of working conditions and fostering opportunities for profitable employment. Given my own Department’s work on ensuring safe workplaces, employment rights and industrial relations, and in the area of future skills needs, there are areas of mutual interest between my Department and the US Department of Labor.

Mr. Marty Walsh is President Biden’s nominee for US Secretary of Labor. The US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions conducted a Hearing and subsequent vote on Mr. Walsh’s nomination on 11 February 2021. A full Senate vote is awaited before Mr. Walsh can be confirmed as Secretary for Labor.