Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Brexit Preparations

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the emergency contingencies and supports in place to safeguard SMEs and export businesses here from a hard Brexit scenario if the UK leaves the EU with no deal in place; if a request will be submitted to Director General for Competition seeking changes to state aid rules in advance of the 31 October 2019 deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41306/19]

I ask the Minister to outline to the House the emergency contingencies and supports in place to safeguard SMEs and export businesses here from a hard Brexit scenario if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, if a request has been made to the Director General for Competition seeking changes to the state aid rules in advance of the 31 October 2019 deadline and if she will make a statement on the matter.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. While there remains significant uncertainty around the means by which the UK will leave the EU, the Government has worked to put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for business to suit all Brexit eventualities. The most immediate consequences of a hard Brexit are likely to be currency movements, supply chain constraints, delays, duties and tariffs, all of which will place strain on the working capital position of businesses. The €300 million Brexit loan scheme is designed to address working capital challenges brought about by Brexit. For businesses with fewer than ten employees, loans from Microfinance Ireland will also be available to provide liquidity support.

A rescue and restructuring scheme with a state aid approved ceiling of €200 million is in place to allow us to respond rapidly to provide support for undertakings in difficulty and enterprises experiencing acute liquidity needs, if needed. This scheme was developed as it was considered prudent to have contingency measures in place so that my Department can respond swiftly to changing circumstances, as necessary. These financial supports are operating alongside a suite of advisory, mentoring, training and awareness supports offered by my Department and its agencies. More recently, my Department in association with the Department of Education and Skills, and key industry partners, also launched a new support measure, Clear Customs, comprising a training programme and financial support to help customs agents, intermediaries and affected Irish businesses develop the capacity to deal with the additional customs requirements due to the UK’s departure from the EU.

In relation to state aid, in November 2017, a technical working group was established comprising representatives from DG Competition, my Department, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with the objective of scoping and designing schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with state aid rules. Through this group my officials are engaging in ongoing and open dialogue with DG Competition on Brexit issues. Earlier this year I met with the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, who assured me that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms. With the deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU fast approaching, the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit continues to represent a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland. I want businesses, particularly those most impacted by Brexit, to know my Department and its agencies are here to help.

I welcome the funding announced yesterday, but as part of that funding, the Minister immediately needs to bring greater clarity to the type of mix of funding that will be granted. What percentage will be equity and what percentage will be loans? That should be done quite quickly. I worry about the schemes because based on the previous schemes, there seems to be a very low uptake. Business groups cite extremely restrictive conditions and limits for the low uptake. We have only a 14% drawdown of the €300 million Brexit loan scheme which the Minister alluded to. She alluded to the supports being put in place by her Department but only 1% of businesses which need to go to customs preparedness workshops have done so.

One of the schemes introduced last year was the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. More than a week ago, I received an email which I forwarded to the Minister. A recipient contacted me in relation to this scheme. The person said that almost a year later they, as a grant recipient, were still completely in the dark regarding this programme and that there was a litany of problems, some of which the person highlighted. While there are schemes, there are problems and there is a low uptake. What is the Minister going to do to reduce these problems and increase the uptake?

I want to reassure the Deputy that there is a range of schemes and that businesses are taking up those schemes. The suite of schemes announced yesterday in the budget have different aspects, being in the form of loans, grants or equity. They will enable Enterprise Ireland to provide a bespoke response to each individual company, depending on its requirements, and companies will be assessed by Enterprise Ireland on a case-by-case basis. The criteria for schemes will be made available to businesses as the Brexit picture becomes clearer. It is important to remember that the supports announced in the budget yesterday are emergency measures, which will only kick in when it becomes clear that there will be a no-deal scenario. The bottom line is that we have a wide suite of supports ready to go in order to cater for companies of all sizes. The first thing a company needs to do is to put a business plan in place. There is support available to help them to do that through Enterprise Ireland and that is available now.

I know a suite of schemes was announced yesterday. I read the Minister's press release and I was in the Dáil Chamber for the budget speech. What I want to know is what element of these proposals will be loans, what will be grants and what will be equity. My reading of the schemes is that, particularly for the smaller businesses, there will be support for microenterprise and for Microfinance Ireland of €5 million and an emergency Brexit fund for microenterprise of €5 million. Both of those are either loans or repayable grants but there are no grants for small businesses that get into trouble. Businesses out there are averse to taking on any more debt and they do not have the capacity to take on any more debt . My understanding is that there was no grant aid for these people in the Minister's announcement yesterday. I seek clarification in that regard.

The Minister talks about her Department providing support for businesses. Why is it that just 1%, or 531, businesses out of more than 90,000 that Revenue identified as having traded with the UK in 2018 have participated in the Brexit customs training? We are not prepared enough. I want to know what the Department is going to do to increase that preparedness.

To clarify, customs training is run by Enterprise Ireland and through the local enterprise offices, LEOs. Much customs training has been carried out and 917 participants have attended customs training. What we have now is "clear customs", which is a much more in-depth training programme for the custom agents, and we also provide a grant of €6,000 per employee, up to ten employees in a company, to help companies recruit staff and train them. There are a lot of supports out there and we are saying to businesses to take up those supports. I will send the Deputy a list of all of the supports that have been taken up as I do not have time to detail them all now.

There has been very poor uptake.

In terms of the microfinance supports that I announced yesterday and the local enterprise supports, €10 million is available and that supports every business across the board.

Is it grants or loans?

It is a mixture of both. Grants are available through the enterprise offices, and some of them are repayable or part-repayable. This is taxpayers' money. If a company needs support, it gets it when it needs it. However, if it turns into profitability, I think it is only fair that it would pay the money back to the taxpayer. There is a suite of supports available to support the companies.

Local Enterprise Offices

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

2. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to conduct a review of local enterprise offices; her further plans to introduce reforms to the local enterprise office network; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41217/19]

Has the Minister or her Department plans to conduct a review of local enterprise offices or plans to introduce reforms to the local enterprise office network?

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. Future Jobs Ireland is the Government’s plan to meet the challenges of productivity performance and technological changes which we face as an economy and as a society. Under Future Jobs Ireland, I am committed to strengthening the capacity of the LEOs to provide a comprehensive suite of supports for indigenous Irish businesses and entrepreneurs, including addressing any gaps in such supports in order to achieve a step-change in enterprise productivity and innovation and to build resilience for the future.

Enterprise policy is a rolling agenda and requires a continuous assessment of action to be undertaken on an annual basis. The operations of our enterprise agencies are regularly reviewed and evaluated, including in regard to the effectiveness of their enterprise supports structures. Many of the actions in the Department’s overarching enterprise policy agenda, Future Jobs Ireland, at both business environment and firm level, are key to driving productivity growth across all sectors, including investments in talent and in physical, digital and research infrastructures. The LEOs are also working towards these aims and ambitions.

Enterprise Ireland is responsible for the overall administration of the local enterprise offices in partnership with my Department and the local authorities, and this is a partnership which is working extremely well. The LEOs, working locally on the ground, are at the coalface of business supports for microenterprises in all their variations throughout Ireland and understand the needs of their local business community.

Under budget 2019, the local enterprise office funding has been increased by 22% through additional capital funding of €5 million and this increase is being used to assist microenterprises in becoming more competitive and better able to cope with the changing environment in which they do business. The suite of LEO Brexit supports includes tailored mentoring to address Brexit-related business challenges and targeted ongoing training on specific Brexit challenges, such as customs clearance.

In terms of plans for reviewing the operations of the LEOs, the Department has been working with the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, regions and cities on a crucial review of SME and entrepreneurship policies and issues. This review is currently nearing completion and will be launched on 23 October 2019.

As the Minister of State is aware, the State is overly reliant on a fairly small number of multinationals for a significant portion of its tax take. Last year, 45% of the total corporation tax take came from just ten companies and foreign-owned multinationals paid 77% of the corporation tax receipts for last year. This would leave our public finances very vulnerable to any sudden economic or political change and the European Commission has also raised concerns about this fact. The regime also leads to a regional imbalance, as those of us from outside of the cities know all too well. In order to develop our indigenous businesses, we need to strengthen the LEOs and increase supports. The Minister of State said the Government gave an additional €5 million but there is a lack of State support for non-FDI, non-exporting companies and in regions other than Border or Gaeltacht areas. The local enterprise offices across the country support small businesses with grants and assist entrepreneurs. Does the Minister of State agree they need strengthening?

I have to emphasise the importance of the 31 local enterprise offices around the country, which have played a significant role in our economic recovery. Some 98% of enterprises in the country are SMEs and they employ nearly 70% of the working population, a figure which is even higher for microenterprises. What is important about the regions that they drive job creation, not just in counties and regions, but in every community. We continue to support the LEOs and I believe there has been a 30% increase in their funding since I became Minister of State in 2016. That will continue and the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has already referred to the loans announced yesterday in budget 2020 for Microfinance Ireland and a further €5 million in grants for the LEOs.

We are monitoring the situation closely. In preparation for Brexit, we have had a lot of meetings throughout the country and mentoring is going on all the time with the LEO companies. It is interesting to note the number of microenterprises that have gone from being a LEO enterprise to being an Enterprise Ireland company. The LEOs are extremely important because they create jobs in every county. Last year, they created 3,700 net jobs and I believe that with the funding in place this year through the €2.5 million LEO competitive fund, this will attract more entrepreneurship and more start-ups to compete for that funding and to build on that success.

The scale and ambition of the LEOs needs to be increased.

Sinn Féin has a policy on this area. We would incorporate the existing 31 individual offices under a national headquarters and supply 100 additional staff who would co-ordinate activities within the 31 offices. We would also provide for 100 additional mobile advisers who would go out to businesses. I am sure the Minister of State has often heard many local business owners who are setting up say they do not have the time to seek advice because they are concentrating on setting up their businesses. The provision of an additional 100 mobile advisers would be particularly important also in the light of Brexit, whatever form that will take. Will the Minister of State acknowledge there is merit in the Government adopting a similar policy to strengthen the scale and the ambitions of the LEOs, particularly in light of what we could be facing?

The Deputy must acknowledge the great work that has been done and the way we work with the LEOs. I referred in my reply to the collaboration between the local authorities and Enterprise Ireland. Those bodies along with the Department work with the 31 LEOs around the country. Most LEOs are located at the front of local authority buildings. They are very prominent. In terms of the work we have been doing to develop the LEOs, the student entrepreneurship awards are important. We also have the Entrepreneur of the Year award in respect of which we receive many applications and many people are entering this area. A good deal has been done in this area. The Minister and I meet the LEOs on a twice-yearly basis. This year, they celebrated their fifth birthday. They have created more than 18,000 jobs since they were established. We have new arrangements in place, together with the resources we are giving the LEOs, including human resources. Each LEO now has a graduate, a young person working in the digital and technical area. which is important. I ask the Deputy to take note of the OECD report and the report we have put together, which we hope to launch in mid-October. It sets out the shortcomings for small businesses in the country and how we can improve matters in that respect. Addressing those shortcomings will be a priority for us to ensure the LEOs and microenterprises play a very important role in the regions.

Economic Competitiveness

Robert Troy

Ceist:

3. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the measures in budget 2020 to reduce the costs of doing business, reverse competitiveness deficiencies and create a more attractive environment for entrepreneurs here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41307/19]

Will the Minister outline the measures she achieved in budget 2020 to reduce the costs of doing business, reverse competitive deficiencies and create a more attractive environment for entrepreneurs in Ireland?

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Notwithstanding our strong economic growth, addressing Ireland's cost competitiveness remains a key economic priority for Government and we continue to monitor Ireland's cost base and analyse the factors that are crucial to improving our cost competitiveness.

Our competitiveness is reflected in a range of economic metrics such as high economic growth, the performance of the labour market across sectors and regions, strong export figures and our productivity figures. For example, the labour force survey shows there was a 2% increase in employment in the year to quarter 2 2019, bringing total employment to 2.3 million, the highest number on record. In quarter 2 2019, there were 130,800 people unemployed, a decrease of 9.4% compared to the previous year. However, our strong competitiveness position, with the IMD ranking Ireland at 7th out of 63 economies, cannot be taken for granted. There is no room for complacency, which is why improving Ireland’s competitiveness position is a key priority for this Government.

The Cost of Doing Business in Ireland 2019 report and the Ireland's competitiveness scorecard 2019, published by the National Competitiveness Council, NCC, found that while Ireland is a high-cost economy and the fifth most expensive in the EU, the cost base for enterprise is internationally competitive across a range of metrics, for example, the cost of starting a business, communications costs and average income taxes.

The 2020 budget, announced by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday, aims at protecting the economy’s resilience in the face of Brexit and other international uncertainties. The €650 million contingency provision for a no-deal Brexit will enable me to introduce a number of specific measures to support companies to remain viable and competitive. The budget continues this Government’s careful, stability-oriented approach to the management of the public finances, which is essential to preserve the economy’s competitiveness. In line with Project Ireland 2040, the budget provided for significant increase in capital investment which will support the expansion of our infrastructure across key areas, thus supporting the economy’s resilience and competitiveness.

I thank the Minister for her reply. Small firms are the backbone of the economy and supporting them helps create and sustain jobs across the regions throughout the country. Earlier this morning, the director of the Small Firms Association said that budget 2020 is disappointing in that it did not recognise the importance of small firms by introducing ambitious measures to support entrepreneurship. Our cap on qualifying gains for capital gains tax, CGT is €1 million, which is out of sync with the UK where entrepreneurial relief is available for gains up to £10 million. We are ranked 23rd in terms of competitiveness according to the World Bank, which is quite low down the scale. Given that the NCC comes under the Minister’s remit, of the 121 recommendations published by the council in its 2018 annual report, will she update the House on the number of those that have been completed? Is there an actionable timeline for the implementation of those recommendations and is that available to Members?

Ireland has made progress in recent years to improve its capital tax offering to entrepreneurs. The capital gains tax, CGT, entrepreneur relief was introduced in budget 2016 and provided for a reduced rate of capital gains tax of €20% for entrepreneurs - that was down from 33% - subject to a lifetime threshold of €1 million in gains and to meeting certain criteria. The relief was further enhanced in budget 2017 when the reduced CGT rate applicable was further lowered from 20% to 10%. The review carried out by Indecon economic consultants found that the relief should be retained and presented a range of options which could be considered for its enhancement. However, Indecon found to increase the lifetime limit in the manner advocated by most commentators would increase Exchequer costs but would be unlikely to be cost effective with the minimal impact on reinvestment. The Minister for Finance signalled in his Budget Statement yesterday that he had asked his Department to consider the outcome of the review with a view to determining any changes that could be made to the relief to better support entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial activity.

The Minister cannot have it both ways, namely saying she does not think it is beneficial while, at the same time, looking for a review of it and saying that it would be beneficial to change it and that it would be amended. If a change is proposed, it will not happen under we have another budget. This budget was a wasted opportunity in this regard. We are uncompetitive when one compares the relief offered here to that offered by our neighbours across the water with whom we will be competing on the basis of our attractiveness for job creation and the retention of entrepreneurs. That is a fact and I am disappointed the Minister does not agree with me on it.

I asked about the recommendations of the NCC. It is critical that the Minister updates the House on the implementation of those recommendations and the timeline for their implementation. Has that timeline be published? I did a thorough search and I could not find a timeline for that.

The truth of the matter is Ireland remains a high cost economic and an expensive place in which to do business, to which the Minister alluded, under all economic metrics, including property, insurance, transport, energy and business. In respect of the cost of borrowing or lending, we are 65% higher than comparable countries across the EU. It is important we are updated on the NCC's recommendations. I hope the Minister will take this opportunity to do that.

We take on board the recommendations of the NCC and I will certainly provide information on where those recommendations, many of which have been complied with, are at. I included in the Future Jobs Ireland plan a condition that the recommendations would have to be formally reported on, on a regular basis, something about which I am very conscious.

On the taxation side, budget 2020 saw the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, announce a number of measures. Changes to the research and development tax credit scheme, the employment and investment incentive scheme and the key employee engagement programme, KEEP, share options scheme will help to ensure Ireland will remain competitive and supportive as a location in which to develop ideas and base start-up businesses. Future Jobs Ireland, launched in March this year, includes a range of specific deliverables that aim to enhance the business environment and improve competitiveness. Ireland is now seventh in the IMD rankings, whereas in 2011, just after Deputy Troy's party left government, it was 24th. While we have come a long way, we are certainly not complacent. I am very conscious that we must remain competitive.

Flexible Work Practices

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

4. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the research undertaken on the issue of flexible working, including its impact on the welfare of employees; the number of staff assigned to the report being compiled by her Department on the issue; her plans to publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41103/19]

What research has the Minister's Department undertaken on the issue of flexible working, including its impact on the welfare of employees? How many staff have been assigned to the report her Department is compiling on the issue? When does she intend to publish the report?

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. My Department and I understand the importance and potential of flexible working. As the nature of work and society changes, the way in which we organise work must also change. A labour market which offers flexible working solutions can result in tangible benefits for employers, employees and wider society. This is addressed under pillar 4 of the Future Jobs Ireland strategy. Pillar 4 is focused on increasing participation in the labour force as this will lead to the more equitable, balanced and sustainable development of Ireland's workforce.

Pillar 4 of Future Jobs Ireland outlines a number of key ambitions and deliverables to help to increase participation in the labour force. Specifically, ambition 4.2 of the strategy is focused on fostering participation in the labour force through flexible working solutions. Flexible working can encompass a wide variety of practices, including part-time and compressed hours, job sharing, home working and remote working. Such solutions allow for tangible benefits for employees, including improving their work-life balance. Flexible working also assists in the development of an inclusive society. By removing some of the barriers to work for people with caring responsibilities and providing a framework for flexible retirement, increasing flexible working could improve labour market participation, particularly among people with caring responsibilities, older people and people with disabilities. For wider society, remote working has the potential to stimulate regional growth, lessen accommodation pressures and support the transition to a green economy.

There are a number of key deliverables under pillar 4 of Future Jobs Ireland, with the objective of fostering participation in the labour force through flexible working solutions. They include deliverables such as holding a national consultation on flexible working options, the development of guidance for employers on family-friendly working options and the extension of unpaid parental leave. These deliverables are being led by the Department of Justice and Equality, with an input from my Department. A further deliverable under this pillar, on which my Department is leading, is the completion of research on remote working.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The objective of this research is to understand the prevalence and types of remote working arrangement within the workforce and the attitudes towards such arrangements. The research will also identify the influencing factors for both employers and employees partaking in remote working.

As we know, work practices are changing. Therefore, we need to develop a framework that will incorporate and respond to the demands of modern working and for flexible work arrangements. The social and economic benefits for both employers and workers are wide-ranging. According to the most recent census, there was a 14% increase in the number of people whose primary workplace was their home. The Minister does not need me to tell her the advantages of this for workers. They will spend less time commuting into cities and sitting in traffic and it may reduce bills, including childcare bills, while rents may be reduced, etc. I am interested in seeing the completion of the research the Minister's Department is carrying out. I say this on the basis that our European counterparts are decades ahead of us, particularly when the majority of jobs are city-focused and city-centred and we are talking about climate change, the environment, travel, infrastructure and the lack thereof.

The Minister will have two further opportunities to respond.

One would imagine the Department would be a little further on, considering that we are so far behind other European cities and countries.

I absolutely support flexible working arrangements. That is why earlier this year the Minister, Deputy Bruton, and I held a consultation event at Cavan Digital Hub, a new hub in the town of Cavan that allows people to co-work and work remotely. It is also a landing base for companies that want to come into the region. I held the event to hear and promote the views of employers and employees on remote working. We are in a time of full employment and want more people, particularly those in caring roles, to return to the workforce. There are many benefits to be gained. There will be a better work-life balance and employees might not have to commute long distances. It will also take pressure off the cities. For example, Apple in Cork employs 1,000 people who are working remotely. It is a question of how we can work with employers and employees. We have had the consultation and carried out research. It will identify new potential data sources based on desk research and engagement with stakeholders. Two staff members in my Department are working on the report and being assisted by an interdepartmental steering group.

The Minister said in her earlier response that there was a proposal for a national consultation on flexible working. Does she have any idea when it will kick off, given that we are lagging behind others and it would be a very good first step? The other worrying aspect is that there is no legislation or guidelines governing this area. What happens as a result is that there are varying standards, subject to a company's individual and specific policies. That is not the practice we want to see. When will the Government put in place a policy in order that there will be rules governing the area and that people will know where they stand and whether they can access remote working? As it would also protect workers and their rights, it is important that legislation be brought forward.

The Minister, Deputy Bruton, and I have already held a consultation event. As I said, we want to hear the views of employers and employees because it is a win-win for everybody. It is a question of how we can find the right way to do it. The findings of the consultation will feed into the research on remote working being carried out by my Department. We want to figure out through it the extent of remote working among the workforce, the types of arrangement in place, the attitudes towards remote working and the factors that influence employers and employees in pursuing remote working. Ultimately, the research will inform new Government policy on the issue. The policy could take any one of a number of forms. It could be a Government strategy or it may be a charter to which employers could sign up. We need to take stock of the discussions. While we have to await the outcome of the research, I am satisfied that we will find the right solution.

Does the Minister have any idea how long it will take?

Regional Enterprise Plans

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

5. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she is has received a report from an organisation (details supplied) which highlights the threat to the goals of Ireland 2040 if aviation policy is not reviewed to recognise the importance of air connectivity in achieving regional balance and the sustainability of jobs; if she will ensure the policy is reviewed to support businesses in the regions to remain connected in view of the threats posed by Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41116/19]

The report to which I refer in my question was carried out by Copenhagen Economics at the request of Limerick Chamber in conjunction with the Shannon, Ennis and Galway chambers of commerce. It points to the threats to jobs in the Shannon region if Shannon Airport is not supported, particularly in the context of Brexit. I want the Minister to ensure aviation policy will be changed to ensure businesses in the region and others that might be affected will be protected.

I am aware of the Copenhagen Economics report which was commissioned by Limerick Chamber to which the Deputy referred. I must, first, point out that aviation policy, as the Deputy knows, falls within the mandate of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. She will also be aware that A National Aviation Policy for Ireland is a key policy document for both national and regional airports.

I agree that it is critical for regional development that Shannon Airport continue to exploit opportunities that support both the local economy and that of the State. It is also vital that the stakeholders in the region support the airport in order to optimise the opportunities to grow services and ensure their viability by using them.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has engaged in detail during the development and roll-out of Project Ireland 2040. More recently, it engaged with the Southern Regional Assembly in drafting its regional spatial and economic strategy, which includes the mid-west. Project Ireland 2040 sets out our national strategy to achieve the Government's regional development objectives. It states clearly that international air connectivity through our main airports, including Shannon Airport, as well as our smaller regional airports, is key to our national development plan, NDP. The plan highlights specifically the critically important role that Shannon Airport plays in the mid-west. Enterprise policy has a key role to play in the development of Limerick and the mid-west as an attractive and vibrant location in which to live, work, invest and set up business. In February this year, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, launched the mid-west regional enterprise plan, which covers the period up to 2020. The development of the region's capacity to deliver economic growth is one of the core strategic objectives of the plan, which includes a collaborative regional focus on exploring opportunities for greater utilisation of capacity at Shannon Airport.

With due respect to the Minister of State, my problem is that I was hoping for an answer from the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation because I think this matter needs to be raised at Cabinet level. All the answers we get from the Minister, Deputy Ross, and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport inform us that aviation policy does not allow the Government to invest in Shannon Airport. Under EU rules, it is permitted to make such investment. It is clear from the Copenhagen Economics report that businesses, particularly multinational businesses that employ many people in the mid-west, are in danger if the percentage of air traffic in Ireland that goes through Dublin Airport continues to increase at the current rate and Shannon Airport is not supported in any way. Private regional airports are supported, but Shannon and Cork airports are not. My fundamental question is for the Minister and I hope she is listening. Will she raise at Cabinet level the need for aviation policy to be aligned with regional policy and with Project 2040? At the moment, they are totally unaligned. Will the Minister and the Ministers of State protect the businesses in the Shannon region that are depending on international connectivity by ensuring there is connectivity with an EU hub such as Frankfurt in the event of a no-deal Brexit or some other form of Brexit? The Minister of State, Deputy Breen, knows well that such protection is needed given that Heathrow Airport will not be in the EU anymore.

The Deputy may be aware that the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, announced yesterday that a marketing support fund of approximately €10 million over three years is to be made available to support the regional airports outside Dublin, including Shannon Airport. In December 2017, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation provided €250,000 in funding under the regional enterprise development fund to support the development of the Emerald aero cluster in the mid-west. I believe this project is progressing well. The NDP further highlights the plans for the Shannon Group in this regard. An investment of €150 million, including €100 million for the development of the property portfolio through the delivery of high-quality advanced manufacturing, warehouse and office space solutions, has been outlined in the capital programme over the period to 2022. This programme will help IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in their drive to attract inward investment and increase employment in the region. As the Deputy will be aware, aviation policy is part of the remit of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Project Ireland 2040 makes it clear that international air connectivity through our main airports, including Shannon Airport and the smaller regional airports, is a key part of the success of the NDP. In my constituency, €5 million has been made available for the extension of the runway at Waterford Airport. All of this is part of Project Ireland 2040. Shannon Airport is mentioned in the national plan more often than any other airport.

The Minister of State has made my point, which is that aviation policy does not support Shannon Airport. There is an insistence on regional balance in regional policy and in Project Ireland 2040. According to the Copenhagen Economics report, "Other small open economies, where a similar concentration in market shares has been seen, have implemented policy initiatives to counteract the dominance of the national airport and mitigate negative impacts on other airports." I appeal to the Government to align its policies to ensure the completely unbalanced airport sector in Ireland does not result in the loss of jobs in the successful mid-west region. Action can be taken and I want action to be taken.

Tourism Ireland strongly promotes Shannon Airport as an access point. It has highlighted the issues raised by the Deputy. A large amount has been given to Tourism Ireland to ensure airports outside Dublin are part of the overall strategy, plan and agenda. I spoke to the Minister about funding for regional airports yesterday. When we get the details of the budget, we will see that substantial funding of €10 million is being made available to airports over three years.

It is not being made available to Shannon and Cork airports.

Market funding of €10 million is being provided to support regional airports outside Dublin.

I am not talking about privately owned airports.

I believe Shannon Airport is mentioned on a number of occasions in the national plan for the period up to 2040.

It is not enough to be mentioned.

The Government has made a commitment that it will support regional airports, particularly Shannon Airport. Waterford Airport, which is smaller than Shannon Airport, is receiving €5 million in support under the 2040 plan essentially because of the need for regional development.

It is getting that money because it is a private airport.

The Deputy can rest assured that the Government will continue to support Shannon Airport.

I hope the Minister of State is right.