Under the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924, my Department prepares and administers legislation in areas such as commerce, employment rights, occupational safety health and welfare, competition and consumer rights, chemicals and intellectual property. Naturally, in that regard, we exercise many regulatory functions.
The information requested by the Deputy, insofar as it relates to the ten Offices and Agencies which come within my Department's remit, and which have significant regulatory powers is as follows:
The Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) is Ireland's national body within a European network of accreditation bodies with responsibility for accreditation in accordance with the harmonised EN 45000 series of European standards and the relevant International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards and guides.
INAB is the national body for the accreditation of certification bodies, laboratories and inspection bodies. It is the national statutory monitoring authority for Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). INAB is a division of Forfás, the national policy and advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation. The Manager of INAB reports directly to the Chief Executive officer of Forfás. INAB has a staff of 13 and has an independent Board of 12 members, which is appointed by the Board of Forfás. Forfás itself is responsible to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Houses of the Oireachtas. The expenditure for INAB in 2008 is estimated at €1.747m.
Costs usually increase for INAB annually in line with inflation. However, demands for accreditation in the regulated area (for example, in support of implementation of SI 360, 2005 on the safety of blood and blood products; implementation of the Organic Farming Directive; implementation of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail) have increased significantly. This, along with impending changes resulting from the European Parliament's recognition of the importance of accreditation in the European market makes it difficult to predict the extent of future demands. It is possible to recover costs for the increased demand through charging direct fees to the users of the service; however, in certain instances the cost of maintaining schemes with a low client base may need to be supported by State subvention.
The Legal Metrology Service (LMS) is a statutory body established under the Metrology Act 1996 whose functions were subsequently transferred to the National Standards Authority of Ireland. Under the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1998, the Director of the LMS exercises regulation making and control functions with regard to measurements, in particular those used for the purpose of trade. The estimated gross cost in 2008 is €4.191m. Gross operating costs for the LMS are expected to increase by approximately 2% in 2009 and 4% in 2010.
The Legal Metrology Service forms part of the functions of the National Standards Authority of Ireland. Under the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996, the Authority is accountable to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule to that Act.
The Labour Court provides a comprehensive service for the resolution of disputes about industrial relations, equality, organisation of working time, national minimum wage, part-time work and fixed-term work matters. Some aspects of the Labour Court's responsibilities have a regulatory function, e.g. in relation to Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements. There are 30 staff assigned to the Labour Court, including four shared with the Labour Relations Commission.
The Court is independent of the Department in the performance of its functions. The Secretary General of my Department is the Accounting Officer for the Court.
The expenditure for in 2008 is estimated at €4.029m. There are no additional costs envisaged (other than standard increases to be provided for under annual estimates process).
The National Consumer Agency was established on a statutory basis under the Consumer Protection Act 2007 (‘the Act') on the 1st May 2007. The Agency which incorporated the existing Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs, was given a wider statutory mandate with additional powers and functions in areas of consumer advocacy, research, education and awareness, information and enforcement. The Agency enforces a wide range of consumer protection laws, including laws on deceptive trading practices (these include unfair, misleading and aggressive practices), consumer credit, package travel, unfair contract terms, timeshare, food labelling, textile labelling, unit pricing and price displays. The Agency has been allocated a budget of €10 million for 2008. The budget for the Agency in future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.
In terms of accountability, section 7(3) of the Act provides that the Agency shall be independent in the performance of its functions. Notwithstanding this, section 16 of the Act provides that the Chief Executive shall, when required, give evidence to the Committee of Dáil Éireann established to examine appropriation accounts and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Section 17 provides for accountability of the Chief Executive to Oireachtas Committees other than the Public Accounts Committee and Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil and Seanad Éireann. Section 20 obliges the Agency to prepare and submit to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, strategy statements every 3 years and annual work programmes at least 2 months before the commencement of the financial year. As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I am obliged to lay the strategy statement before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as practicable after it has been submitted to me. Section 22 provides that the Agency shall present its annual report to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, within six months of the end of the financial year. Section 23 provides that when audited, a copy of the accounts and a copy of the Comptroller's report shall be presented to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I must lay copies of them before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as practicable but no later than 3 months after receiving them.
The Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies is a statutory independent office responsible for the registration of Industrial and Provident Societies, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions, to ensure that various societies and trade unions comply with their statutory obligations under the Acts and the provision of accurate information to the public about registered societies and unions.
The annual report submitted by the Registrar of Friendly Societies to me, as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The annual costs of the Registry are included in those of the Companies Registration Office.
The Companies Registration Office (CRO) is the statutory authority responsible for ensuring the filing of returns under the Companies Acts, provision of public access to accurate company information, the issue of certificates of incorporation for new companies, the maintenance of a register of mortgages and charges and the registration of business names and limited partnerships.
The Registrar of Companies is independent in the exercise of his Statutory functions under the Companies Acts. The Secretary General of my Department is the Accounting Officer for the Office. The total operating budget for the CRO for 2008 amounts to €10.091 million. This includes the 2008 provision for the Registry of Friendly Societies. The budget for the Registries in future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.
The Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) was established pursuant to the provisions of Part 2 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act, 2003 to supervise the regulation by the accountancy bodies of their members. IAASA is independent in the discharge of the functions. The Act requires it to make an annual report, not later than 4 months after the end of each financial year, of its activities during that year. Furthermore, the Act provides that I, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, shall ensure that a copy of the annual report is laid before each House of the Oireachtas not later than 6 months after the end of the financial year to which the report relates.
Total operating budget for 2008 is €2.555m of which 40% is by way of grant from the Exchequer and 60% by way of a levy on the prescribed accountancy bodies. The Exchequer element of the budget for future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.
The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement was established in 2001 and is responsible for encouraging compliance with the Companies Acts and investigating and enforcing suspected breaches of the legislation.
In accordance with the legislation establishing the Office, the Director is required to be independent in the performance of his functions. However, the Director is obliged to present a Report to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, within 3 months of the end of each year, about the performance of his functions and other activities during the year. As Minister, I must lay this Report before the Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, I am entitled to require the Director to provide information from time to time, provided the information is required for the performance of the my functions. Finally, the Director may be required to account for the performance of his functions directly to a Committee of either House of the Oireachtas. However, he is not obliged to provide information or answer any questions that could prejudice him in the performance of his functions.
The budget for the Office for 2008 is €4.957m. The budget for the Office in future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.
The Irish Takeover Panel, established by the Irish Takeover Panel Act 1997, is the statutory body responsible for monitoring and supervising takeovers and other relevant transactions in Ireland.
Under that Act, the Panel is required, as soon as may be, but not later than 4 months, after the end of each financial year, to make a report in writing to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, of its activities during that year and I shall cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas not later than 6 months after the end of that year. The Panel does not receive funding from the Exchequer.
The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body responsible for enforcing competition law in the State. Its budget allocation for 2008 is €6.776 million. The Authority's budget for future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise. Section 29(3) of the Competition Act 2002 states that the Authority shall be independent in the performance of its functions. Notwithstanding this the Act sets out the occasions on which the Authority is obliged to report to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Authority is required to submit its accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General. A copy of the accounts and the auditor's report are required to be presented to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I must lay copies of them before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Authority is required to submit an Annual Report both to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Authority is also required to present its Strategic Plan every three years to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I am required to lay it before each House of the Oireachtas. The Authority must also submit a work programme for the following year to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, at the end of each year. The Chairperson, whenever required to do so, shall attend the Public Accounts Committee or any Oireachtas Committee to discuss the general activities of the Authority.