Adjournment Debate

Credit Review Office

I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise this very important matter on the Adjournment. It is well known in the House that there has been a particular problem with credit flow to small and medium-sized enterprises since the beginning of the recession over two years ago. This problem has become more acute with time. In light of the deal concluded over the weekend with our partners in the European Union and with the IMF, the options for this country for stimulating growth have been very much reduced. Our hands are tied, as many speakers have pointed out, with the tying up of the National Pensions Reserve Fund in the deal and with the restrictions imposed on our State assets.

It is, therefore, more pressing that we enable our enterprise sector to grow. If we are to achieve the ambitious growth targets for the next four years, as set out in the four-year strategy, we must see that growth driven by the enterprise economy. I hope my raising of this matter will be regarded as constructive.

Credit flow is a significant problem. The establishment of the Credit Review Office was designed to assist with credit flow. According to the Minister for Finance, the CRO was established with the intention of encouraging and increasing the supply of credit to viable borrowers for business purposes. We all know viable businesses that are not benefiting from credit; unfortunately, the CRO has not made that situation any better. The office, as we knew from the very outset, does not have any powers to force banks to overturn decisions. It is an appeals mechanism for business owners who are refused credit, but it has no powers of enforcement. The Minister for Finance said on 21 September that only 20 loan applications had been sent to the CRO for review. Of these, ten have been dealt with and only five appeals were upheld. It is clear that this mechanism is simply not functioning. I believe that what Deputies have been saying in the House for the past 18 months is accurate because I deal with businesses in my own constituency on a regular basis.

In the second quarterly report of 18 November, 19 applications were analysed. Of these, the banks' decisions were upheld in 12 cases, while in five cases the CRO sided with the borrower. The remainder needed more work. Thus, five SMEs have accessed credit as a result of the CRO, which was set up last April. The chief executive officer of the CRO, John Trethowan, indicated on 18 November that many more cases had been resolved through phone calls and face-to-face meetings, but we have no evidence of this as there is no paper trail. From discussions with owners of SMEs in my constituency, I find it hard to believe. More recently, ISME surveyed SMEs and found that 68% of companies still did not know the service existed.

This year, €3 billion was to be made available to SMEs by Bank of Ireland and AIB, but when I questioned the Minister about this I was informed that he could not tell me, as a Member of the House, how much of this has been actually drawn down as the information was commercially sensitive. I am sorry, but I simply do not buy that. We are aware that Bank of Ireland, AIB and other banking institutions in the State have been entirely dishonest with us, with these Houses, with the Government and with the Department of Finance, but now the Department of Finance is trying to cover up for them, which is unfortunate.

There is an urgent need to secure credit for companies if the enterprise sector is to thrive. At the beginning of this recession, almost 1 million people were employed in SMEs in this country, but this figure is declining rapidly. We must inject some life into the SME and enterprise sector. If all of our targets in the four year plan and our aim of achieving a budget deficit of 3% of GDP by 2015 are to be met, and if we are to service the massive, crippling loans we have now inherited from this Government, we must stimulate growth in the economy. As far as I can see, our options are limited, and I hope the Minister of State has some constructive suggestions on how to address this major problem.

I thank Deputy Creighton for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Finance.

I welcome the opportunity to debate the performance of the Credit Review Office. The office was established under the NAMA legislation and has had an important effect on the availability of credit to SMEs. The office reviews decisions by AIB and Bank of Ireland to refuse credit as well as decisions to reduce or withdraw existing credit and constructive refusals where decisions are not given within the time limit or are unreasonably priced or subject to unreasonable terms or conditions. Mr. Trethowan has submitted two quarterly reports, which have both been published. I must point out that the office is funded by the two banks and not by the taxpayer.

Mr. Trethowan has completed 22 reviews since the office was established. He agreed with the bank in 14 of them, sided with the borrower in five cases, and considered that more work was required by both the borrower and the bank in three other cases. Twelve additional applications are proceeding through the process, with three others awaiting clarification of eligibility. In all the cases in which the office sided with the borrowers, the banks have co-operated when the CRO asked them to reconsider their decisions.

The numbers involved are quite low compared with the noises made by business representative organisations about the availability of credit. I strongly urge anyone who considers he or she has been unfairly refused credit to seek an internal review of the refusal followed by a review by the CRO if necessary. It is only through this process that reliable figures for unfair refusals can be established. Mr. Trethowan has made it clear in his reports that all of the review cases to date have been difficult lending decisions and that there is no evidence that the banks are indiscriminately refusing credit.

Another positive effect of the CRO has been Mr. Trethowan's work with the two banks to put their internal appeal mechanisms on a more formal footing. The latest figures show that the banks have completed a total of 106 internal appeals, of which 20 resulted in refusals being overturned or sanctioned with conditions, and a further eight appeals are in progress. I must also point out that Ulster Bank, which is not participating in NAMA, has established its own internal review process based on the principles of the CRO. Indeed, the existence of the CRO and the right to both internal review and review by the office appears to be having an effect on credit decisions at local level. Anecdotally, we are becoming aware of cases in which credit has been granted when the issue of review was raised, and the CRO has been able to secure credit in some cases without the need for a formal review.

Some borrowers and representative organisations have raised fears that seeking reviews will damage their relationships with the banks. This is a real fear, and the Department has written to each bank about this. As Mr. Trethowan's report makes clear, both banks have shown a positive attitude to the process at senior level. Another task performed by the CRO was to review the plans of the two banks to reach the target of €3 billion in lending this year and next year. The plans contained commercially sensitive information but were published in a redacted format. They are considered to be credible, and Mr. Trethowan is satisfied with the banks' performance to date on them. It is particularly important that the banks' adherence to marketing and staff development plans to support lending can be assessed if the actual amount lent turns out to be lower than the target.

Banks have experienced pricing increases in their retail deposit and long-term market funding costs, which are now being passed through to borrowers when their facilities are reviewed. Mr. Trethowan has asked both banks to try to minimise the impact of these increases where possible — for example, by increasing the length of the loan to spread the cost. One bank is offering an option to some borrowers to renew for one year or five years to allow borrowers to avail of better rates for shorter term borrowing.

The CRO has been a positive influence on the availability of credit to the SME sector, and I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Trethowan and his team in the office.

Local Authority Funding

I am pleased to have an opportunity to raise this major issue. Every day we can see on our television screens, hear on the radio and read in our newspapers the extent of the adverse weather conditions that have gripped the country for the past few days and, we understand, will continue for quite a number of days to come. Roads, rail and airports are experiencing great difficulties and there are delays everywhere. Primary roads, motorways and national roads are being gritted, but there is great difficulty for local authorities in reaching secondary roads and they may not have enough resources to make sure they are gritted, which is causing major problems.

At present, we need to deal with the initial difficulties that are being experienced. There should have been sufficient warning from last year's experience to ensure the country would be well prepared for adverse weather and that there would be adequate leadership, including the presence of the Minister in the country. Last year no Minister would take charge, but at least the Minister is here this year. It was important to ensure there would be adequate reserves of salt and sand to allow the local authorities to carry out their work. I was in Drogheda yesterday and I travelled the road from the motorway through to Julianstown to get there. The traffic was bumper to bumper for approximately ten kilometres. The roads were not gritted and traffic proceeded at a snail's place to prevent accidents from taking place. However, accidents did occur. Clearly, we are not as well prepared as we should be. It is time to recognise that what was an event that occurred once every 50 or 100 years — this is how it was described by people recently — is now happening every year. What were abnormal weather conditions, whether wintry weather or flooding, are now becoming the norm in the country and it is time this was addressed.

Although the emergency planning task force is in operation and the Minister meets the various agencies on a regular basis, there is not much value in co-ordinating the activities of the agencies and the local authorities unless there is adequate funding to ensure the plans can be implemented thoroughly. Last night during the budget debates the manager of Dublin City Council stated that the council had not received one extra cent for this coming year to deal with adverse weather conditions. That is not good enough. Local authorities throughout the country are doing their best to try to provide services but they have one hand tied behind their backs if they do not have extra funding to pay for the overtime, resources and materials required and the work which must be carried out night and day. Almost all of this work must be carried out in the middle of the night to prepare for the morning such that commuters can move.

I call on the Minister of State to recognise that we have a new dispensation at this point. It is no longer the case that Ireland has a mild, temperate climate and does not experience extremes or polarity of weather. It is rapidly becoming the case that we experience extremes of weather, whether flooding or wintry conditions. While recognising this, the Minister must follow on and not simply provide an emergency task force but also provide the resources essential for the task force to carry out the work. This is where the Government has fallen down to date. This is November and December and January are yet to come. I trust the Minister of State will provide us with some detailed and specific information with regard to what the Government will do to ensure the local authorities can provide the services required to keep the country running, to keep the roads open and to ensure workers can get to work in time. These are important issues the Minister must address.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this important aspect of what is taking place in rural areas on the Adjournment tonight. I hope some action will be taken to address the restriction in place preventing local authority workers from helping communities and people in their own areas. I refer to a simple plan whereby one could have one tonne of grit mixed with salt kept at the end of many roads on which people have difficulty travelling throughout the country. The reality is that non-national roads will never be gritted by the National Roads Authority, NRA, or the local authorities. They simply do not have the ways or means to get around to gritting them. However, there are several communities, farmers, business people and contractors in many constituencies and rural areas who have the equipment, including tractors, trailers, shovels and pick-ups, to grit dangerous stretches of road. This is a practical and simple solution which would add greatly to the work already being done.

There has been much activity from the local authorities on the main roads throughout the country. They are being well gritted and anyone who drove to Dublin today, such as many in this House, will have observed how well the motorways were done. However, the problem is with the small country roads that people must travel on tomorrow morning after a fall of snow or after a freezing night. These are the forgotten people of rural Ireland. If nothing else this simple practical measure should be facilitated.

The Minister of State is from a rural constituency. He will be aware of what I am referring to and I need not explain it to him. The message must get to the Minister for Transport or to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, whichever of the Departments is responsible. It would be a simple measure but it would alleviate many of the problems.

Some 94% of our roads are regional or local and they carry approximately 60% of traffic, including 43% of all goods traffic. This is relevant, especially at this time of the year when there are many goods to be moved around before Christmas. A good deal of transportation is undertaken on many of our roads including feed to be carried to farmers and heating oil and coal to be brought to many isolated houses. There is a significant argument to support the roll-out of this suggestion. It would be cheap, effective and it would have the support of a significant number of workers in local authorities. I understand many engineers consider this to be a good idea. I call on the Minister of State, who comes from a rural constituency, to ask the Minister to allow local authorities to carry out my suggestion to put salt and grit at the end of each road and to allow the locals to carry out the work.

I thank Deputies Costello and Tom Hayes for raising this matter on the Adjournment, which I am taking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey. I will respond to the matters raised by the Deputies. The Government response to severe weather is led by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, supported by all relevant Departments. As part of its role on the Government emergency task force, the Department of Transport reviewed the transport-related response to the severe weather events of last winter and has worked with the task force and other Departments to put in place additional measures to respond to similar events.

What emerged late last year and early this year during the severe and lengthy spell of bad weather was the need to overhaul the system whereby each local authority traditionally sourced its own supplies of de-icing salt. Under that system some local authorities had more than sufficient salt supplies while others had to ration it. The Minister for Transport addressed this issue by tasking the National Roads Authority to be the central procurer of salt supplies for all local authorities and to ensure that adequate salt supplies would be available in future to maintain a prioritised road network.

Day-to-day operations on the national roads network is managed by the National Roads Authority, NRA. The authority also provides support to the Department of Transport in respect of the administration of grants for regional and local roads. Such grants are provided as a supplement to own resource funding within local authorities. As part of the planning strategy, the NRA finalised and published an updated winter maintenance guidelines document in October that addresses the response to severe weather events. In response to its role as the central procurer of salt supplies, the NRA advertised a framework contract in August 2010 for the supply of de-icing salt for the coming winter. The contract is for the supply of 80,000 tonnes with an initial call of 50,000 tonnes and a further 30,000 tonnes in January 2011. This supply was in addition to the 20,000 tonnes of salt stock available since earlier in the year. In addition, local authorities can purchase directly from traditional sources should they wish. The NRA is investing €6 million this year in additional dry storage facilities for de-icing salt and a further €2.5 million for grit spreaders and snow blades and so on, for local authorities.

To co-ordinate the overall response to similar severe weather events, the Department of Transport called on its agencies to liaise with local authorities to ensure access to their services are included in the relevant local authority priority routes being provided to the Department.

In response to the current severe weather conditions, the Department and all its agencies have been meeting on a daily basis since last Friday to monitor and provide information to the travelling public on transport issues. A Government task force inter-agency response group on severe weather met yesterday. The group reviewed reports from the various agencies on issues relating to the severe weather. Met Éireann has reported that there is no sign of the severe weather abating. All local authorities are treating roads on a prioritised road basis. The NRA has confirmed that adequate salt stocks are in place nationally and are being distributed as required to local authorities to meet these priorities. The agreed objective for local authorities during periods of severe cold is to keep the full national road network and other key strategic routes and public transport routes open for traffic. These roads carry an estimated 60% of total traffic and about 80% of commercial traffic. Other roads are dealt with on a needs basis by local authorities, for example to provide access for medical facilities and emergency services, schools and commercial districts.

Local authorities also take a pragmatic approach and respond to specific situations or community events. Local authorities also liaise with An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and voluntary community organisations to address specific issues, including working with the Civil Defence and Defence Forces where appropriate to ensure key services, such as public health nurses, are able to access isolated clients in rural areas, and to deal with specific priorities which are agreed locally.

Regarding the request for additional funding to local authorities for exceptional weather events, the Exchequer grants for regional and local roads are allocated each year by the Department of Transport to the local authorities. The Department does not hold back a reserve allocation, at central level, to deal with weather contingencies. Holding back such an allocation would mean a reduction in the road grant allocations made to all local authorities at the beginning of each year. The allocations made to local authorities are inclusive of a weather-risk factor. Local authorities are expressly advised in the annual road grants circular letter that they should set aside contingency sums from their overall regional and local roads resources to finance necessary weather-related works.

This year the planned rehabilitation works on regional and local roads were deferred and greater flexibility was given to local authorities to deal with the urgent repair of damage to the regional and local road network arising from the flooding and prolonged severely cold weather. A total of €188.8 million was provided under this special improvement grant in 2010. Local authorities were also provided with €111 million in maintenance grants in 2010.

The division of moneys between surface dressing and general maintenance works was rebalanced to give councils increased flexibility in responding to events such as the current severe weather. In this context, the moneys provided for discretionary maintenance which can be used for severe weather works, such as salting, were increased from €30 million in 2009 to €51 million this year. Additionally, the National Roads Authority is supplying grit at no cost to local authorities.

The overall impact of the considerable work by the employees of our local authorities has resulted in the public transport services continuing to operate with some curtailments of bus services in areas over the day. Irish Rail and Luas services are fully operational. Air and sea ports are also operational and access routes are being maintained.

Anyone wishing to travel should check with their service provider directly. Access to travel information is also available on the Department of Transport's website www.transport.ie. Spokespersons on behalf of the transport agencies are providing information to the radio networks and providing customer contact numbers for those without access to the web. Members of the public are reminded by the Garda and the Road Safety Authority to avoid unnecessary travel and to take public transport where possible. Safety advice for road users during severe weather is available from the Road Safety Authority directly at www.rsa.ie. Latest advice on traffic is also available from AA Roadwatch. The Department continues to monitor the situation and will continue to provide information to the public.

Fishing Industry Development

I wish the Minister of State, Deputy Connick, well in the forthcoming Council fisheries negotiations on 13 and 14 December, particularly considering it may be his last session with an election forthcoming.

Many fishermen in this country have given up hope for the industry. They bought into an industry in which they were willing to work with the fisheries regulatory authorities and the Department. However, the proposed reductions in the fishing quotas through so-called conservation management schemes will turn the industry on its head.

The word on the street is that the economy is going to get worse as it still has not hit the bottom yet. We did not listen to the word on the street ten years ago when people said the housing bubble would burst, there was no such thing as free money and young people would have millstones around their necks for the rest of their lives. People across the country are now struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. The Minister of State can make his mark by removing the blinkers from his departmental officials and ensuring the development of an indigenous fishing industry. We have forgotten we are a maritime nation with a strong historical relationship with the sea. The Minister of State must also bring this message to Brussels on 13 and 14 December.

If this so-called EU-IMF bailout is to be repaid, the EU must know how we are going to do it. The four year national economic recovery plan alludes to growth in the seafood processing sector. Does the Minister of State have specific details about this? Does Europe want to facilitate a more radical overhaul of the present system in which most Irish catches land in European ports and not here? For example, Killybegs is only using 20% of its fish processing capacity.

The days-at-sea methodology versus quantity methodology is unfair to small boat fishermen. It counts days when fishermen must return to harbour because of bad weather or when a boat breaks down. For small boats, unable to achieve their traditional catches in the short number of days they are allocated, a mix of fisheries is no longer possible. The methodology was introduced for cod conservation but these small boats have negligible cod catches or bycatches.

There is no Area VIA quota for lesser spotted dogfish, commonly known as rock salmon, which is not consumed by humans. It is used as bait and Irish commercial fishermen import it at €15 per box to use as bait for crab-fishing when it is available on our shores. Will the Minister of State secure a quota for small boat fishermen to fish for rock salmon? Entry into this new industry would also ease pressure on crab stocks.

The EU is threatening to close Area VIIA for conservation purposes which must be resisted. If it is to be closed, it should only apply during the spawning season. Furthermore, if it is to be closed, it should be closed to Norwegian, French and Spanish fishermen too.

The EU white fish conservation effort assumes fishermen are damaging stocks. Irish fishermen, however, do not have the capacity to damage stocks. We can get people back working because for every job we create at sea, seven can be created ashore. We also need to work on the processing sector. I am impressed that the document refers to the seafood sector in the context of value added. Perhaps the Minister can highlight more specific points in his response. He should, however, use that as a main plank in the negotiations. Zaragoza is a major fishing port in Spain with a processing unit capacity of up to 76,000 square metres. We cannot possibly compete with that but we can seek to replicate it in some shape or form. In addition, we can use it as a basis to get this country out of the mess we are in.

I thank Deputy McHugh for raising this issue and for his good wishes regarding the forthcoming European Council meeting. I have just returned from Brussels today, in fact, and it will be difficult to conduct such negotiations given the scientific information that has been put before us. We will be dealing with the consultative groups and I will be meeting with them tomorrow. I have been working with the industry for some time to ensure that we will get the best results for the country.

The annual management arrangements for the Community's fishing fleets are traditionally agreed at the December Agriculture and Fisheries Council. This year, the arrangements for 2011 are due to be negotiated at the Council scheduled for 13 and 14 December. The levels of total allowable catch, TAC, and ultimately the quotas for Ireland are determined each year at the December Council, following negotiations with member states and the EU Commission.

The process of preparing for the Council is already under way. The European Commission published its proposal for the 2011 fisheries on 10 November. The details of the proposal are based on formal advice received from ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, which is the independent international body with responsibility for advising on the state of fish stocks. It also takes account of the views of the STECF, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, which gives the Commission its views on the economic and social impacts of the scientific advice.

The Commission's proposal is currently the subject of detailed and protracted discussions. These will continue over the coming fortnight at EU level with the Commission and other member states, and here at home with industry representatives and other stakeholders. The proposal sets out reductions in the TACs of many whitefish stocks of economic importance to our fleet. It also envisages other measures which will adversely impact on our fishing industry, such as the rearrangement of TAC areas for prawn or nephrops stocks in the north Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and the Aran grounds, and a proposed regime to cap, for the first time, fishing effort for the whitefish fleet in the Celtic Sea off the southeast coast.

There is concern about the poor state of certain whitefish stocks targeted by the Irish fishing fleet and this is clearly reflected in the reductions proposed by the Commission for 2011. The Commission has proposed cuts of 50% for the cod stocks in the waters west of Scotland and in the Irish Sea, ICES areas Vla and Vlla. These stocks are part of the cod recovery plan, which has restricted fishing effort in these areas for fishermen using whitefish or prawn gears. The Commission has argued that the measures implemented by the plan have not been effective. Therefore, it is recommending cuts to these TACs with a view to closing these cod fisheries in 2012. It is also proposing a cut between 25% and 50% in fishing effort in the whitefish and prawn fisheries in these areas for 2011, on top of similar cuts implemented over the last two years. It should be noted that the effort cuts would not be applied to vessels using fishing gear that avoids catches of cod.

Whiting stocks in these areas are also set to be cut severely under the Commission proposal, with the area VI stock being reduced by 50% and the Irish Sea stock cut by 25%. TACs for haddock stocks are also to be reduced, with 25% cuts recommended for haddock stocks in area VI, and a 15% cut for haddock in the Irish Sea.

The Commission has proposed 15% reductions to a number of other stocks including — in area VI — monkfish, prawns, plaice, pollack and sole. In the Irish Sea, sole is to be cut by 20% and plaice is to stay the same as 2010. The TAC for skates and rays are also due to be reduced by 15%.

The Celtic Sea is a very important area for the Irish whitefish fleet, with significant mixed whitefish fisheries. Stocks in this area set for a 15% cut include cod, megrims, monkfish, plaice, pollack, saithe and some stocks of sole. The Commission has recommended a status quo TAC for a number of whitefish stocks. These include haddock in area Vll, hake in VI and VII, megrims in VI and whiting in the Celtic Sea.

The Commission has proposed a significant change to the management of prawn stocks in area VII, which includes the north Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and the Aran grounds. Prawns in these waters have traditionally been managed under one TAC. However, scientific advice is that these waters contain a number of distinct prawn stocks that should be managed under separate TACs. The Commission has accepted this advice and has proposed breaking the TAC into seven separate TACs, one for each prawn stock or functional unit. Under the current proposal, the overall TAC amount for these prawn stocks would fall from 22,432 tonnes set for 2010 to 18,684 tonnes in 2011, a decrease of more than 16%.

I am not in favour of the Commission's proposal to subdivide area VII into functional units for the management of prawns. These prawn stocks are of vital importance to the Irish fleet and the proposal would have a detrimental impact on current fishing patterns and limit the flexibility available to our vessels at present. The current arrangement allows the fleet the flexibility to operate over a wide area with a single TAC.

I am not convinced that the sub-division of area VII into functional units is the best course of action. I would favour retaining the status quo, with one prawn TAC for the whole area, with additional measures to protect vulnerable stocks within the overall area.

There is concern about the Porcupine Bank stock. Therefore, we have proposed that maximum catch limits be set to protect that stock in addition to a continuation of the closed area for the summer months that was in place for 2010.

The Commission has also proposed introducing an effort management regime in part of the Celtic Sea, in areas VII f and g. This regime would see a ceiling set on the amount of whitefish effort — that is, days at sea — that a member state's fleet could exert in these areas during 2011. At present, the ceiling would be set at 90% of Ireland's, and other member states', effort levels in this fishery in 2007.

I do not support the effort limitation as proposed or the suggested implementing methods. The introduction of an effort regime in an area of mixed fisheries on an ad hoc basis, where many of the stocks have a much wider distribution, has the potential to impact significantly on fishing patterns and lead to displacement of fishing effort without giving assurance on the appropriateness of the regime to deliver on the objectives set.

As in previous years, Ireland will be invoking the Hague preferences in respect of certain of its quotas. The Hague preferences are regarded by Ireland as a fundamental part of the Common Fisheries Policy. They allow Ireland, and also the UK, to claim additional shares of certain whitefish quotas. When Ireland invokes the Hague preferences for a stock, the quota distribution is changed to allow Ireland a greater share of the TAC. There is strong opposition in certain member states to their invocation by Ireland. However, I consider them an entitlement and their delivery will be my first priority at this year's negotiations. The Hague preferences amount to a safeguard for Irish fishermen and for our coastal communities, which are especially dependent on fishing.

While I know that the Deputy's focus is on whitefish fisheries, I will also have to deal with the fact that the blue whiting TAC has been cut by 93%. The Commission has recommended a cut of 50% in the main north west herring stock and is considering introducing very restrictive measures for the Boarfish fishery. In addition, I am facing a cut in the Atlanto-Scandic herring quota. Finally, we are actively involved in crucial negotiations that will determine our quotas for the critical mackerel and horse mackerel fisheries.

I am concerned with the level of cuts proposed for whitefish and other stocks, as well as the other measures proposed and their socio-economic impact on fishermen and fishing communities. I am working closely with my Department, fishing industry representatives, the Marine Institute and BIM to get a full understanding of the implications of the proposal and the industry's priorities. However, I can assure fishermen that I am actively engaged, as are my officials, in delivering the best possible deal for Ireland, taking into account scientific advice.

There will be a lot of long days and late nights in the upcoming negotiations before a settlement is reached on the final package of measures. The reality is, however, that we will experience cuts in some stocks, though the actual level of these cuts has yet to be determined.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.50 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 December 2010.