Other Questions

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

6. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of visits by the IDA to County Meath; and if she is satisfied with the level of IDA investment in County Meath. [49464/17]

I want to raise the question of the number of IDA site visits to County Meath. I have not specified a year in the question, but I am sure the Minister can give me information. I also want to ask about the level of investment and grant aid in County Meath.

We are fully committed to the creation of high-quality and sustainable employment across Ireland, including in County Meath. The Mid-East Action Plan for Jobs is a key policy response for supporting employment growth in this region, including County Meath, with public and private stakeholders actively engaged in delivering the range of innovative and practical actions set out in the plan.  The core objective of the plan is to see a further 25,000 at work in the region by 2020 and to reduce the unemployment rate to within 1% of the State average.

The first two progress reports on the implementation of the action plan show that good progress continues to be made in implementing the actions. The second progress report highlighted actions of specific benefit to Meath, such as the fit-out of Kells Tech Hub, using REDZ funding, to provide shared services and hot desking facilities. In addition, Meath Enterprise was awarded funding under the Enterprise Ireland Community Enterprise Initiative to develop the Boyne Valley Food Hub.

There are now 12,800 more people at work across Meath, Kildare, and Wicklow since the launch of the regional action plan for jobs initiative in quarter 1 of 2015. The unemployment rate in the region has also dropped to 5.8%, lower than the State average of 6.4%.

I am also determined to grow foreign direct investment, FDI, driven job creation further outside of our main urban areas. I am pleased that significant progress has been made towards achieving the IDA's target of a 30% to 40% increase in FDI in every region outside Dublin, including the Mid-East.

There are currently 17 IDA client companies located in County Meath employing close to 1,500 people. This year has seen some significant investments in the county, with Shire announcing plans to expand its global biotechnology manufacturing capacity over the next four years. It is expected this will lead to the creation of approximately 400 permanent jobs on a 120 acre site at Piercetown, County Meath. This news followed Facebook’s announcement in January of the construction of a new data centre in Clonee, County Meath. Construction for the €200 million data centre is taking place, with more than 1,000 workers on site daily.

The IDA continues to highlight the benefits of expanding or locating in County Meath to its client base and it makes every effort to ensure that FDI is spread as widely as possible throughout the country. Since 2016, there have been nine site visits to the county. While site visits can be a useful indicator of new investment interest, they are not by any means indicative of the potential for FDI in an area. I point out in this regard that at least 70% of investment comes from existing IDA clients.

While the IDA always highlights the benefits of investing in the regions to prospective investors, determining which particular sites may be attractive to a client depends very much on the particular requirements of the firm concerned. Factors that are also important for overseas investors include the suitability of local infrastructure, the proximity of transport hubs and the availability of skilled talent. Multinational companies ultimately decide for themselves whether they want to operate in the area.

I also welcome the investment by Shire, Facebook and other companies in the Clonee and Dunboyne regions. It is very important and is certainly a vote of confidence in that area. What I am concerned about is that while the Minister of State mentioned the Kells Tech Hub, and I welcome the investment that has gone into that, there was no IDA financial investment in Meath in 2016. It was one of three counties which got no IDA investment, the others being Roscommon and Leitrim. Meath is vastly bigger than Leitrim and considerably bigger than Roscommon, and it has considerable advantages in terms of promoting industry. What is the Minister doing for Kells? A number of year ago Kells was designated as an area which could qualify for State aid for employment, yet there was no funding from the IDA for it last year. There is an IDA business park outside Drogheda which has had one company in it for a considerable period, but on the whole it is completely empty. That is in County Meath too. It is not acceptable. I do not think that the IDA is putting enough emphasis on other parts of the county. Clonee and Dunboyne are standing on their own two feet, as it were, because of their location and get by with support from the IDA, but with little financial investment. Other areas need that support, in particular Kells and the business park outside Drogheda. What on earth is going on with that?

The IDA is only one element of job creation. It is a very important element and has been an important part of the job creation in County Meath. Meath is very near to Dublin. Clonee is on the border with the county. I also point out the importance of the indigenous sector in County Meath. The number of people employed in that sector has grown substantially over recent years. There has been an increase of 41%, and there are now almost 7,000 people employed in the indigenous sector there by Enterprise Ireland companies. That has to be put in the context of job creation in the county. While FDI is extremely important, a lot of indigenous and start up companies come out of that. Enterprise Ireland has a very important role in that. The local enterprise offices, LEOs, are also playing an important role throughout County Meath.

The Deputy has outlined the situation in Kells. I do not have exact numbers but I will ensure that they are passed on to the Deputy. It is important that there is regional balance throughout the county. The LEOs should be highlighted as they are a first-stop shop for people who want to start companies. In 2016, they created approximately 927 jobs there throughout the county. It is a matter of looking at the context, with the FDI, IDA, Enterprise Ireland and LEO jobs. I take on board the Deputy's concerns about business parks.

I accept what the Minister of State is saying about the indigenous sector being important, but the question was about FDI and the role of the IDA in funding that. It is a fact that there was no funding invested by Government through the IDA in Meath last year. It is also a fact that there is a business park which is owned by the IDA outside Drogheda, in County Meath which is almost empty, apart from one very important industry. It is also a fact that the Kells area was designated for Government support, yet last year nothing came through the IDA. That is not to say that there is nothing else happening in Kells, but the IDA needs to have a much greater focus on County Meath and support it financially. There are parts of the county that will stand on their own two feet, so to speak, and which are doing really well, and we are very proud of those towns and everyone who puts the work in to achieve that, including the IDA. We must not forget about other parts of the county where support is needed and where we really need FDI. We have a history of FDI. We want to continue that and bring more industries into the county.

I take the Deputy's points on board. We have to look at the fact that since 2016 there have been nine site visits to County Meath by the IDA. There are some flagship companies in Clonee, and there is a €200 million investment by Facebook happening there at the minute. That is a very important and significant investment. The Tánaiste spoke about it earlier when she discussed data centres. That investment is strategically very important. The one disadvantage that Meath has, which other counties surrounding Dublin also have, is that sometimes people commute out of the county into the capital city. That can be a disadvantage. At the same time Meath is an important location for FDI, particularly when it comes to quality of life and the availability of housing as well. I will emphasise to the IDA the importance of the issues that the Deputy has raised today, but the fact is that there have been nine site visits since 2016. Companies are growing, particularly the foreign companies in the county, and sometimes they increase their workforce without the fanfare that some companies want. That is a strategic decision taken by the company itself. Meath has done really well, but the Deputy is obviously concerned about the regional towns. It is important that we invest in those too.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Niall Collins

Ceist:

7. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of regional IDA Ireland site visits up to the third quarter of 2017; the details of all vacant properties per county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49595/17]

Will the Tánaiste indicate the number of regional site visits by IDA Ireland up to the third quarter of this year? This is an issue we raise in the House at every opportunity given the disparity in the economic recovery across different parts of the country. We are effectively seeing a two-tier economy comprising Dublin and the greater Dublin area versus the regions.

This is a question the Tánaiste and I are asked in every county we visit. Regional development remains a priority for the Government. I am very much aware that an important part of unlocking the potential of regional Ireland is ensuring that foreign direct investment, FDI, is spread as evenly as possible across the country, as per Government policy. IDA Ireland is committed to increasing FDI in each region, and I welcome the progress made so far in boosting FDI-driven job creation outside of the main urban areas. In 2016, for example, more than half of all IDA Ireland-supported jobs created were based outside of Dublin.

There have been 507 site visits to date this year, up by 18 from the same point last year. While site visits can be a useful indicator of new investment interest, they are not by any means indicative of the potential for FDI in an area.  It is important to note that at least 70% of investment comes from existing IDA Ireland clients. While the agency always highlights the benefits of investing in the regions to prospective investors, determining which particular sites may be attractive to a client depends very much on the particular requirements of the firm concerned. Factors overseas investors take into account include the suitability of local infrastructure, the proximity of transport hubs and the availability of skilled talent. Multinational companies frequently seek to base themselves as close as possible to businesses operating in the same industry. IDA Ireland continues to work with all stakeholders and potential clients, as well as working with existing clients in all regional locations, to generate additional jobs. However, the final decision on where to locate an investment is always decided by the client and not by IDA Ireland.

There are 17 buildings owned by IDA Ireland that are currently available. In addition, the agency leases units from private investors, of which 24 are currently available.

The Minister of State's time is up.

There are several more points I would like to make.

The Minister of State will have another opportunity to speak.

It is, of course, important to attract jobs into the country but it is equally important to ensure those jobs are evenly spread throughout the State. The data show that is not happening. Of the 323 site visits that took place in the first six months of 2017, 48%, or almost half, were in Dublin and the greater Dublin area. Counties Laois and Meath had no site visits, while counties Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Offaly and Roscommon had one visit each in the first half of the year. We should not seek to diminish or dilute the significance of site visits and at the same time, IDA Ireland has almost 100 vacant properties across the country. I take every opportunity I have on Question Time to raise this issue. The Government must use whatever means are necessary to force IDA Ireland to encourage site visits in parts of the country where they are not happening.

Last week, Deputy Quinlivan and I were part of an Oireachtas committee delegation that visited the south east to meet members of the business community. If the Tánaiste and Minister of State had been among our number, they would have been run out of town because people there are very annoyed by what they perceive as the lack of attention from both Government and the State agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. It was hot and heavy going during the two sessions, with the business representatives rightly making their feelings known in a vociferous manner. The Government has a responsibility to achieve a greater spread of site visits into the regions outside the greater Dublin area.

I understand the south east is one of the areas that has seen significant investment recently. It is important to note that foreign direct investment normally locates in clusters. As we know, industry tends to follow industry.

In regard to IDA Ireland activities, there were 27 site visits in Limerick, which is the Deputy's area. In my own area of Clare, we had 20 visits. These numbers represent a huge increase on what we were seeing in recent years. In addition, the mid-west results for 2017 show that 57% of all job approvals thus far are based outside of Dublin, an increase of 37% from the same time last year. This illustrates our focus on investment in every part of the State.

I take on board the points raised by the Deputy and assure him that the capital development plan is focusing very much on those issues. As I said, clusters are very important for FDI investment but also the proximity of third level institutions and the innovation centres that may be attached to them. Another consideration is the quality of the road network, and we have seen substantial enhancements in that regard in recent times. The inclusion of the Limerick-Cork motorway in the forthcoming plan will be particularly welcomed by the Deputy. There are some areas in the north east, as well as into the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's part of the country, where there are deficiencies in the road network that remain to be addressed and this is reflected in the number of site visits. The ultimate concern is to attract jobs into the country and ensure there is balanced regional development.

There is a difficulty in that the published draft of the national planning framework will inhibit centres like Limerick, Galway and Cork in their capacity to plan for expansion into the future. That is what people in Limerick are saying to me, as I am sure they are likewise telling the Minister of State. Will he comment on that?

On IDA Ireland site visits, while the Minister of State cited the numbers for the mid-west, Limerick and Clare, which are welcome, what about counties Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Offaly and Roscommon? He did not refer to them in his reply.

Another barometer of the economic recovery is gross domestic product, GDP. Last year, 45%, or almost half, of our GDP was generated in the Dublin area. In the United Kingdom, by comparison, London city and the greater London area contributes 20% of national GDP. That is comparing like with like in reference to our neighbouring country and clearly shows we have a major problem when it comes to balanced regional development. IDA Ireland must do more to funnel jobs into those regions that have not experienced the upside of recovery.

As I pointed out to Deputy Thomas Byrne, four out of five of the jobs created by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland last year were outside Dublin. Balanced regional development is a priority for the Government. The Action Plan for Jobs undertakes to ensure all regions experience growth in jobs, and the statistics show that is happening. Our plan up to 2020 is to ensure that of the 200,000 jobs we intend to create, 135,000 will be outside the capital.

Regarding the national planning framework, it is important to note that we do not yet have a final document. No matter where the Tánaiste and I visit, in every instance the representatives we meet will say their region is not included in the framework. That has happened in Limerick, the mid-west and in locations further south or north. The reality is that submissions have been made and the local authorities have been very vocal in their views, as have the chambers of commerce. I am sure that when the final document is agreed, and we have the three regional documents as well, it will be clear that all areas stand to benefit. It is important that we plan for the future and do not return to the days when there was no planning. Only by having proper planning processes in place can we ensure that all areas benefit.

Consumer Protection

Niall Collins

Ceist:

8. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the regulatory regime pertaining to the issue of expiry dates on vouchers. [49598/17]

Will the Minister address the complete lack of regulation in respect of retail gift vouchers? This is an issue of particular concern as we approach the Christmas season, which is a high business turnover period for retailers. It is estimated that up to €300 million is spent on gift vouchers every year but there is absolutely no regulation of their usage.

The Deputy has raised a timely issue, as he noted. Gift vouchers supplied to consumers are subject to the provisions of general consumer protection legislation, in particular, the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 on unfair, misleading and aggressive commercial practices and the provisions of the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995, SI 27 of 1995.

Gift vouchers that are not financial services products are also covered by the provisions of the European Union (Consumer Information Cancellation and other Rights) Regulations 2013. Gift cards that come within the definition of electronic money, of the European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011 are subject to the provisions of these regulations unless the card can be used to acquire goods or services on the premises of the card issuer or within a limited network of services providers or a limited range of goods and services.

The issuer of gift cards that come under the definition of electronic money must, at the request of the electronic money holder, redeem the monetary value of the electronic money - or par value - at any time. Redemption may be subject to a fee in specific circumstances and any such fee must be appropriate and compensate with the costs actually incurred by the issuer of the electronic money. The European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011 falls under the remit of the Minister for Finance.

My Department published a draft scheme for public consultation of the comprehensive consumer rights Bill on 25 May 2015. In addition to the parts that deal with the consolidation and updating of the new law around the supply of goods, digital content and services and on the unfair contract terms, the draft scheme contains a number of provisions for the regulation of gift vouchers including a proposed ban on expiry dates in contracts for the supply of gift vouchers. The responses to the gift card provisions raised a substantial number of issues, including concerns expressed by businesses about the impact of a complete prohibition on expiry dates and the need for clarity and certainty in respect of the regulation of gift cards that comes within the scope of the European Communities (Electronic Money) Regulations 2011. It is important that we listen to all views and possible approaches to the issue of gift vouchers, including the validity of a set time period.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

While I am anxious to progress the scheme of the consumer rights Bill, I have to take account of current European Union legislative proposals for directives on consumer contracts for the supply of digital content and consumer contracts for the online and other distance sale of goods. These proposals, which were announced in May 2015 and published in December 2015 overlap very substantially with two of the main parts of the draft scheme of the consumer rights Bill. Discussions on the digital content proposal at working party level have proceeded rapidly with a general approach reached at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in June 2017. The proposal will now be considered in a trilogue with the European Parliament later this year. Discussion at Council level on the second proposal on online sales has only just commenced.

In this situation, I have to consider the advisability of bringing forward a legislative proposal to the Oireachtas when a directly related and fully harmonised legislative proposal may be at an advanced stage of the European Union legislative process. The wisdom of introducing legislation in the Oireachtas in 2017, if large parts of that legislation would have to be repealed or substantially amended within a relatively short space of time, is obviously open to question. I will continue to review the progress of the two European Union proposals with a view to deciding the best course of action to take with regard to the scheme of the consumer rights Bill.

I also draw the attention of the Deputy to the very useful information for consumers on the issue of gift vouchers and cards on the CCPC website www.ccpc.ie particularly in the run-up to the Christmas period.

I am sure that the Minister of State, and everyone in the House, will agree that the complete lack of regulation of gift vouchers is being exploited by many. Consumers are being severely and negatively impacted. Many people who are in receipt of vouchers and gift vouchers are children, especially at Christmas time. When they go to use the vouchers to make a purchase with them, often they suffer a loss and huge disappointment. It is high time that something concrete was put in place in this regard. Fianna Fáil is publishing a Bill next week to deal with the matter. If it comes before the House we hope that the Minister of State will support it.

The Minister of State, Deputy Breen has made reference to what he is trying to achieve within his Department. Perhaps the Minister of State will specify what the consumer rights Bill will do in respect of time limits, discounting and the loss of vouchers. It is a big issue and it has been brought to our attention. People lose their vouchers from time to time and when they seek to recover or acquire a replacement voucher they are met with stonewalling from many retailers.

The Deputy has outlined that this is the time of year when people get a lot of gift vouchers, especially children. As politicians, the best advice we should give to consumers who buy or receive gift vouchers is to ensure that the vouchers are used as quickly as possible. This is also important. People have a tendency to lose them, leave them in a drawer or let them go out of date. That is the best advice we can give at this stage. The consumer rights Bill, published in 2015, contained a set of provisions for the regulation of gift vouchers. We must also bear in mind the European Communities regulations. We want to listen to all of the views possible on the area of the validity of these gift cards. I am anxious to progress the scheme under the consumer rights Bill but we have to also take into account the European Union legislative proposals for the directive on consumer contracts for the supply of digital content and consumer contracts for online services and other digital sales of goods. In this situation I say to the Deputy that we will take all views on board and listen to all sides here. We have the draft consumer rights Bill and obviously we want to be balanced to ensure we have the rights of the customers and businesses.

Jobs Initiative

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

9. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she will take to ensure continued economic investment in jobs, enterprise and innovation here notwithstanding the impact of Brexit; the extent to which new opportunities are being fostered in this context; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49610/17]

My question relates to the extent to which we in Ireland continue to provide for Brexit in terms of competition for industrial investment, both indigenous and foreign direct investment

I thank Deputy Durkan for his key question. It goes to the heart of the situation that the State faces on Brexit; how exactly can we ensure that the economic recovery continues. I have recently published a document form my Department about that very topic. It is about helping firms to innovate, to do research and to make sure they are prepared for Brexit. Earlier today I outlined to the House the range of issues that will make a difference in our firms' survival. Access to finance is going to be absolutely critical and I have outlined a detailed approach, including the contacts with the European Commission we are taking in that respect.

We have to ensure that jobs continue to be created. There is no question that we have had a very successful action plan for jobs. It is one of the key instruments to continue to support job creation. The action plan for jobs process is working. Since the plan was launched in early 2012, there are over 225,000 more people at work bringing total employment in the State to more than 2 million in the first half of the year. Unemployment has fallen significantly with 18,000 new jobs created in the first six months of 2017 and in the same period employment grew faster in the regions - this is often not noted - at 2.8% more than in Dublin at 1.5%, with four out of five jobs created in the regions.

The preparation of the action plan for jobs 2018 has started. I held a forum in Farmleigh with all the key sectors to discuss what they felt the Government should prioritise for next year. It was decided that we should focus on a smaller number of actions, but that they should be very key actions with regard to the Brexit challenge and where the economy is at this point.

We will focus on more strategic actions to ensure a significant impact on sustainable jobs creation. There are challenges out there and every action needs to be taken to continue the economic recovery.

I thank the Tánaiste for her reply. Will the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation confirm that it is recognised that we must lift the bar now to its highest level ever? The competition is greater, the threats are many and added to by Brexit and the competition from outside and within the European Union. Competition is also affected by the added difficulties that have occurred around obtaining planning permission given that it is just as easy to give a quick and positive response as it is to give a slow and negative response. Is it fully recognised that these challenges now presented to us are greater than Ireland has ever experienced before? Is it recognised that we have the will and the ways to deal with the issues?

The Deputy is right. A really sustained cross-government approach is necessary to continue the economic recovery. We cannot take it for granted. We must continue to focus on all the right areas, particularly on the competition aspect, as I spoke of earlier. We must ensure that businesses who may need temporary financial support have it. This is extremely important. I will work with colleagues to make sure that the new action plan for jobs focuses on the right areas, as informed by business, so we can continue to build that strong economy. If we want the economic recovery to continue it is important that the Government continues to support enterprises, businesses and to put money into research and development. I recently made an announcement, with the Taoiseach, of funding for research centres. In the budget the Deputy will have seen that the Future Dairy project - in the agriculture sector - received extra funding to make sure that the dairy industry stays at the cutting edge of innovation. On a recent trade mission I could see that in the UAE and Oman there is huge concern about food security. Ireland certainly should be in a position to provide to some of those markets.

That kind of research is what will keep our economy operating very well.

Can I assume from the Minister's reply with respect to the review that is taking place, that it is intended to pursue every avenue in every part of the country in regard to every industry in terms of the availability of investment locations, sites, services and procedures to be followed to encourage both indigenous and foreign direct investment in a way which we have not experienced heretofore, notwithstanding the good work that has already been done?

I can confirm to the Deputy that this whole area remains an absolute priority for the Government. The Action Plan for Jobs will be one of the key vehicles but it is only one. It is also about ensuring regional development. The Deputy would have seen in recent times that indigenous local companies are growing. A huge number of new companies are registering with the Companies Office every month, so there is huge activity and innovation, and people who are willing to take risks to set up companies. There is also continued foreign direct investment. If we consider the job announcements even in the past two or three weeks, we have had Regeneron in Limerick, which shows huge confidence in Limerick, a recent announcement in Waterford, two recent announcements in Drogheda and a company opened its centre in Galway recently. Those are just four examples. I see no reason that this level of regional investment should not continue. There is every indication it will continue but we cannot be complacent. There are very serious challenges facing us, with Brexit probably being the most serious one. All the indications are that Brexit will be very challenging for the vast majority of Irish businesses.

Before I move on to Question No. 10 in Deputy Niall Collins's name, I want to say that I am very disappointed with the slow progress we are making. I take some responsibility for that but I ask Ministers and Deputies to take some responsibility for it also. The purpose of the clock opposite us is to be mindful of the time. It is not right that we will get through only ten or 11 questions today. It is unfair to those Members who have questions tabled. Deputy Niall Collins might set the scene for how we should proceed.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Niall Collins

Ceist:

10. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she has considered empowering the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to issue civil fines for anti-competitive practices. [49597/17]

Will the Minister outline any proposals she may have to empower the Competition and consumer Protection Commission to issue civil fines for anti-competitive practices? I am thinking in particular of ticketing practices in the concert sector and of practices in the insurance industry.

I will try to take the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's advice on board.

I thank the Deputy for his question. The current legal position is that civil fines are not provided for in Irish law for anti-competitive practices. My Department obtained advice on the issue of civil fines from the Office of the Attorney General to the effect that civil fines are not provided for in Irish law for anti-competitive practices having regard to Article 38.1 of the Constitution, which provides that no person shall be tried on any criminal charge save in due course of law. In that context, any national legislation to introduce civil fines that would lower the burden of proof from beyond reasonable doubt to the balance of probability would pose constitutional difficulties having regard to the protection afforded under Article 38.1.

On 22 March 2017, the European Commission published a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council to empower the competition authorities of the member states to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the Internal Market. One of the aims of the directive is to ensure that all national competition authorities are able to impose effective deterrent fines. The proposal is currently being debated at the Council working group on competition and is also being considered by the European Parliament.

I am aware that the Law Reform Commission published an Issues Paper entitled Regulatory Enforcement and Corporate Offences on 27 January 2016. The Issues Paper invited views on the enforcement powers of the State’s main financial and economic regulators, including the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, and the issue of administrative and civil fines was raised. I understand the CCPC made a submission to the Law Reform Commission on 19 September 2017, in response to the Issues Paper, requesting the power to levy such fines. With respect to any recommendations or proposals that may emanate from this exercise in due course, we will carefully consider them in the Department.

The Minister of State has not outlined what his view is on this matter. Does he believe the CCPC should be empowered with financial sanctions? Some of our other regulations such as the Central Bank of Ireland, the Commission for Energy Regulation or the Data Protection Commissioner have powers to impose a financial sanction, yet this regulator does not. It is high time we seriously examined this matter. The Minister of State has cited to us on a number of occasions when we have raised this matter the constitutional issue but no more than the lack of regulations covering the gift voucher industry, which we conversed about earlier, it is the consumer who is ultimately losing out. What is the Minister of State's own take on this issue? Is he in favour of such a measure or will he merely coast along and allow another consultation process to drift on. We have had numerous comments, as the Minister of State will know, from the Attorney General on the constitutional prohibition in regard to it. Is the Minister of State in favour or not in favour of such a measure?

To follow up on my initial reply, it is important that we take on board the views on this matter. There are two areas concerned. The proposal currently being debated by the Council's working group and the European Commission has to be considered by the European Parliament. At this stage it is impossible for us to say what format the final EU measures will take. We must also bear in mind that the CCPC had made a submission to the Law Reform Commission on the area of the levy of fines. The main argument in regard to all this is with respect to Article 38.1 of the Constitution. We are listening to the debate in Europe and as soon as recommendations or proposals that may emanate from the Law Reform Commission's exercise come through, we will consider those in due course.

Does Deputy Niall Collins have a further supplementary?

No, that is fine.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.