Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Employment Rights

Pat Deering

Ceist:

44. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the work she is carrying out in respect of the right to disconnect; if she will consider the development of guidelines for employers and employees in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50130/19]

The new era of modern working environments has led to great changes in recent years. New communications and other technologies have caused the boundaries between work life and home life to be increasingly blurred. New digital tools mean that work life has changed greatly for employees and employers. There is, however, an absence of limits in this area. I would like to know what the Minister and her Department are doing with regard to a right to disconnect. Will she consider the development of guidelines for employers and employees in this area?

I thank Deputy Deering for raising this matter. As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I understand the growing importance of promoting a good work-life balance for employees as new ways of working emerge. This is addressed under pillar 4 of our 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 economy.

Ambition 4.2 under pillar 4 aims to foster participation through flexible working solutions. This includes several deliverables aimed at promoting flexible working. I refer, for example, to the production of guidelines for employers on flexible and family-friendly working options. Flexible working encompasses a wide range of practices including part-time, compressed hours, job sharing, home-working and remote working. Such solutions allow for tangible benefits for employees, including improving work-life balance. It also provides solutions for those who would otherwise take unpaid parental leave but cannot afford to do so.

A key deliverable under this ambition is the completion of research on remote working. My Department is leading on this research, which will focus on understanding the prevalence and the types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce and the attitudes towards such arrangements. The research will identify the influencing factors for both employers and employees partaking in remote working. The final report will also include an international policy review which will consider related policy developments abroad, such as the right to disconnect. This will help to inform future policy on remote work. The final report will be published shortly.

Given the increasing digitalisation of the workforce, I believe it is important from a work-life balance perspective that there are clearly defined guidelines regarding workers' rights to switch off after office hours.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, which covers such matters, falls under the policy remit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I have, therefore, discussed this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, in the context of developing Future Jobs 2020.

I thank the Minister for that comprehensive reply. As she rightly states, we are in a different era now. We have continuous access to our phones and emails. We also have many means of communication. People in flexible working environments are now contactable 24 hours a day. The job can be brought home by the employees and they can be expected to work when they are at home as well, whether it is Sunday or Monday and 7 p.m. or 10 p.m. As politicians, we all know that experience. We regularly receive emails from people at 10 p.m, midnight or even 1 a. m. We have, unfortunately, created an expectation, in these Houses and outside, of instant replies to emails. I welcome the Minister's commitment in respect of guidelines. It is important that definite guidelines are laid down in order to ensure that pressure is not put on people to work at home. It is important that people enjoy a balanced lifestyle. To get the full benefit, employees have to be treated in a fair and equitable way.

Being able to switch off from work is already an issue and it is going to become more of an issue in the years to come. Our phones are causing these problems. Phones allow us to be contacted by phone or to email 24-7, and that means people are always on. It is not like long ago, when people left work and went home at 6 p.m. Some of us probably remember when there were no computers at home, so there was no need to worry them until going back into work the next morning at 9 a.m. There is now a sense of always being on and of never being able to switch off and enjoy time with one's family. That is impacting on people's lives. It is not good for work-life balance and the problem will only become worse in the future because of the impact of technology. Things are only going in one direction.

When I met representatives of the Financial Services Union a few weeks ago, they told me that this is a big issue in the financial services sector. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation is putting together a report on remote working. As part of that process, we are looking at what is happening in other countries. The report will look at how the right to disconnect has worked in France. My own view is that the legislation might not be the way to go. We must remember that one size will not fit all. We have to consult. I know the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, is consulting some of the employer organisations.

The Minister said in her original reply that she is in favour of guidelines. Will she give us an indication of the potential timeline for some of these guidelines being introduced after this report is completed? It is important for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to take a leading role in this matter. As the Minister has rightly identified, the phone is the greatest enemy of employees and employers at the moment. I made this point a few minutes ago. Will the Minister give us an indication of the timelines that will be involved in the possible introduction of guidelines?

I have spoken to the Minister, Deputy Doherty. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 falls under her remit. She has agreed that we need to examine this area. She is consulting representative bodies like IBEC and ICTU to get their views. I hope that by consulting and hearing different views, we will be able to come up with some sensible guidelines to help everyone. Some businesses that are doing this might not realise the stress it is causing to some workers. I have got a few messages about it. Some workers have been affected. We do not want them to feel bullied or pressurised into taking calls or reading emails. We will deal with this as part of the Future Jobs Ireland initiative.

Company Registration

Robert Troy

Ceist:

45. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of companies by size that had filed with the new Register of Beneficial Ownership, which is overseen by the Companies Registration Office, by 22 November 2019; the number of filings as a percentage of all companies that have filed according to size breakdown; the number of companies by size that did not file with the RBO by this date; and the number as a percentage of all companies that did not file according to size breakdown. [50140/19]

Question No. 45, in the name of Deputy Troy, will be introduced by Deputy Scanlon.

I would like the Minister of State to give the House the total number of companies, broken down by size, that had filed with the new Register of Beneficial Ownership, RBO, which is overseen by the Companies Registration Office, by 22 November last; to give the total number of filings as a percentage of all companies that had filed by that date according to size and breakdown; to give the total number of companies, broken down by size, that did not file with the RBO by this date; and to give the total number as a percentage of all companies that did not file according to size and breakdown.

I thank Deputy Scanlon for introducing this question. The European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2019, SI 110 of 2019, which were made by the Minister for Finance, provide that the Central Register of Beneficial Ownership of Companies and Industrial and Provident Societies is the central repository of such information held by companies and industrial and provident societies. The deadline for filing, as set out in the regulations, was 22 November last. The objectives of the beneficial ownership provisions that are being implemented are to strengthen transparency regarding who ultimately owns and controls companies and trusts and to detect, disrupt and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing effectively.

The number of companies filing increased steadily throughout last week as the deadline approached.  Due to technical difficulties, any submissions filed with the RBO by midnight on 25 November were treated by the RBO as having been received on time. Data from the RBO show that 152,989 companies had successfully registered beneficial ownership details with it by 25 November. This represents approximately 67% of the total number of registered companies. I believe this figure will continue to increase as submissions received before the deadline are processed. Unfortunately, a breakdown by size of company is not available. The focus of the RBO staff is on processing the many thousands of submissions that have been received. That work will be continuing. We will get the Deputy an update on that as time goes on.

I am glad to hear that the percentage of applications received has reached 67%. It would be very unfair if companies were penalised for a systems failure. There was a five-week period during which this system was set up and people had to register. Registering companies had to file with the new RBO at a time when they were preoccupied with tax returns. Will the Minister of State give companies that have not filed by Friday of this week more time to submit their registrations by extending the deadline to the end of the month? This would be an act of fairness and common sense for all small businesses.

I have a further update for the Deputy. On 27 November last, the number of companies that had registered was 157,577, or 69%. Given that we are further on again at this stage, I would say that over 70% of companies have now registered. They are being processed at present. We can expect further news on that.

I have to say that the deadline cannot be extended. I assure the Deputy that the RBO will take a reasonable, fair, practical and appropriate approach to this matter. Each entity that attempted to file with the RBO on time but missed the deadline will be dealt with case by case in accordance with its particular circumstances. The message we should transmit this evening should be that companies and societies that have not yet filed should do so as a matter or urgency. There was a fairly good advertising and public awareness campaign aimed at securing an increase in the number of companies registering. Emails were sent to 225,000 companies and 1,000 industrial and provident societies. Advertisements were placed in daily and Sunday newspapers and on local radio. A reasonable, fair and appropriate approach has been taken to ensure all companies get registered.

If 70% of companies have registered, that means 30% of companies have not yet done so. I ask that they be treated fairly. Not every company has the wherewithal to comply with all of these regulations. I am sure all companies will do so eventually. There is no doubt about that. It would be wrong if companies were penalised in any way. Each of them is trying to do its best to create jobs and survive in the world of today. I hope they will be treated fairly.

I assure the Deputy that they will be treated fairly. We all know about deadlines like our own income tax deadlines. People tend to wait until the last minute to pay these things or to get registered. As I have said, a steady flow of registrations is coming into the RBO at the moment. They are being processed. They will be treated fairly. I hope we can get that figure much higher before the end of the year to ensure all companies are registered. The awareness campaign I have mentioned will continue. People will be treated quite fairly.

Industrial Development

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

46. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the changes in policy that are proposed to ensure the accelerated growth of the indigenous high-tech industrial sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49685/19]

I think we have to look to the future. Questions Nos. 46 and 47 are basically related. I know they are being taken separately. I have tabled Question No. 46 to ascertain what is being done to ensure the indigenous high-tech sector continues to grow. We have to make a big effort to ensure the indigenous high-tech industrial sector grows in the years to come.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. He is absolutely right when he says that we always have to look to the future. That is why the Taoiseach and I launched the Future Jobs Ireland initiative earlier this year. The initiative positions Irish enterprise and Irish workers for the world of tomorrow. The pace of change means that the world of tomorrow is coming down the tracks at us very quickly. The indigenous high-tech industrial sector is a key sector of focus for Enterprise Ireland. In line with its Build Scale, Expand Reach strategy, which runs from 2017 to 2020, Enterprise Ireland is helping companies in the high-tech industrial sector to start, innovate and remain competitive in international markets now and into the future. To support the accelerated growth of start-ups in this area, Enterprise Ireland's high-potential start-ups division provides financial and non-financial support to innovative start-ups that have the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale in international markets, as well as the potential to create a minimum of ten jobs and €1 million in sales within three years of starting up. This support includes equity funding of up to €250,000, which Enterprise Ireland invests in partnership with other investors in an investment round.

Other supports include innovation vouchers, mentors and capability building programmes such as excel at selling and investor-ready training.

To support established companies in this sector with accelerated growth, Enterprise Ireland engages with client companies through its teams of sectoral focused development advisers using a company-led diagnostic approach, which is used to establish clients' business needs. The agency can then tailor a support package to the company's growth potential based on its ambition, capability and need. A support package focuses, where relevant, on six business pillars, namely, innovation, finance, operations, sales and marketing, people and organisational development.

Support to client companies is awarded based on an agreed business plan.  Enterprise Ireland supports focus on innovation to enable companies to develop new market opportunities and maximise their business performance; competitiveness to identify and measure issues for clients; and internationalisation to assist companies tackle the main challenges of breaking into new markets.

Does the Minister accept that in the past the reason for foreign direct investment was that such companies had the technical know-how and money and that in our early industrial history we did not even have the educational back-up? Does she also accept that in terms of education our graduates, working both at home and abroad, are as good as any in the world and that many of them have experience working in the high-tech sector? To get industries up and running we need money and we need to attract and encourage our graduates to develop these industries. The Minister referred to investment of €250,000. If she had experience in the financial world, she would know that in industrial terms €250,000 is a small amount. What steps are being taken to ensure that there will be adequate, real finance available to start-ups, incubation business in, for example, the universities and people who have already worked in the high-tech sector, to take them to viable status? The sum of €250,000 is too small an amount in terms of investment to get them to that stage.

The €250,000 is for the high potential start-up units. It is just one of a range of supports available to businesses. I refer the Deputy to the document, Overview of Government Supports for Indigenous Businesses, which is available on my Department's website. It is a useful document, which outlines all of the supports that are available to help companies to scale up, invest in research and innovation and improve their management capabilities. The OECD review of our indigenous sector published last month contains a number of suggestions that I will act on as part of the SME strategy. We want to target a 50% increase in the number of SMEs exporting through the expansion of programmes and the development of export capable firms. We also want to broaden the policy focus at the local enterprise offices, which are doing wonderful work with companies, to enable them to work with more companies and increase the adoption of best practice management techniques, including in the key challenge areas of digital and automation skills, sales, marketing and accountancy. We also want to encourage a wider take-up of Skillnet Ireland programmes to develop management capabilities in the Irish SME sector. I also want start-ups to step up their financial skills. Research has shown that while many of our businesses are really good, they are not capable of making good propositions to banks to secure funding. Rather than always looking to traditional lending, they need to look at equity and a range of financial instruments that they can use to invest in their business.

In regard to our young people, I go abroad on trade missions with pride. We have one of the best educated workforces in the world such that when foreign direct investment is coming to this country we can point to our young, highly educated and agile workforce. Also, as a committed member of the European Union, we have access to a huge market. There are many positives.

I accept that there are many positives but we have to look every day at where the challenges and opportunities are. On the opportunity side, there are many people at home and abroad working in multinational companies who already have much of the experience the Minister speaks about, which they have earned. They worked their way through the education system and then went to work in industry and so on. What programmes are in place to encourage these people to leave their comfort zone and get involved in setting up and growing industries of their own?

The second part of my question was about incubation companies that come out of the universities. In many places around the world where industry has developed in modern times, it came out of education establishments. How does the Minister propose to ensure that people have access to the risk funds that are necessary to bring incubations onto the market? The Western Development Commission was very successful in taking a punt and had more winners than losers. What does the Minister propose to do to ensure there is a steady flow of cash? There will be some losers and some winners, but there will be more winners than losers.

We have some really good Irish companies. We are working with the SMEs on how to work collaboratively with foreign direct investment to leverage some of their talent, skills and experience. When both work together the results are better. Under the disruptive technologies innovation fund, another tranche of which I will be announcing soon, one of the qualifying criteria is the involvement of an SME. This is about disruptive technologies coming on stream into the future and collaboration in that regard between the universities, the foreign direct investment sector and indigenous companies. We have many innovation hubs in our universities. Enterprise Ireland is one of the largest investors in the world in terms of venture capital and one of the largest in Europe. We support our companies through Enterprise Ireland.

Corporation Tax Regime

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

47. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the discussions taking place between her Department and the relevant development agencies to reposition enterprise policy in view of the changes in the tax regime of the United States of America and other changes taking place worldwide that could reduce the attractiveness of Ireland to foreign direct industrial investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49684/19]

Will the Minister accept that there are huge changes taking place worldwide in regard to those attractions that Ireland has, for example, on the taxation front? What discussions are taking place at a high level to reposition Irish foreign direct investment to meet the new challenges that are definitely coming down the road, such that in eight or nine years' time rather than relying on the past, we will be building a totally new future? Every 20 years, we need to reposition ourselves in this market.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue.

There is no doubt that the international tax landscape has seen much change in recent years. There has been real progress in global actions aimed at addressing international concerns around the taxation of multinational companies. There have been significant changes in how companies are taxed internationally and how the taxation regimes of countries interact with each other. My colleague, the Minister for Finance, has ably steered a course for Ireland through this ongoing transition by providing transparency, stability and certainty to the greatest extent possible. These are the features of a tax code that businesses truly value. 

The publication of Ireland’s corporation tax roadmap in September 2018, outlining the steps taken to date and the timelines and options for future changes, demonstrated this commitment to transparency and certainty. Ireland’s continued participation in OECD discussions on the future reforms of digital taxation is further evidence of our engagement in this reform process.

Ireland has continued to attract foreign direct investments.  In fact, since the US tax reforms were enacted almost two years ago, IDA Ireland reports that 2018 saw 134 new name investments compared to 111 in 2017, an increase of over 20%.

These successes illustrate that our corporation tax regime, while important, is only one element of Ireland’s value proposition for FDI.  Ireland has a number of key strengths that continue to make us a highly attractive destination for FDI. These include our highly-skilled workers, excellent education system and positive demographics. Our membership of the EU and eurozone and pro-enterprise policy environment are other significant selling points. These strengths help IDA Ireland to provide a strong case to investors considering investing in Ireland. They also help to explain our strong national performance in terms of FDI-driven investment and job creation, with over 230,000 people now employed here by IDA Ireland client firms.

We certainly have had a great run of it but towards the end of her reply, the Minister touched on changes taking place, particularly in the USA, over which we have no control. Does the Minister agree that the lead-in time for an industry setting up in Ireland from the first contact with IDA Ireland could be anything up to eight years? Therefore, we are currently getting decisions on situations that were initiated six to eight years ago. I do not expect all the multinationals which have invested here to move away. The problem is the pipeline of six to eight years time. Other than the obvious advantages outlined by the Minister, that of education, a growing population and so on, what repositioning is taking place because changes are occurring which change some of the advantages that Ireland had? We cannot deny it. We always claimed in the past that tax was part of the package and I have no doubt that it was.

I understand from IDA Ireland that the pipeline of FDI companies coming to Ireland is still strong. While we have been successful I agree that we cannot be complacent. IDA Ireland will publish its new 2020-24 strategy early in the new year. It will build on the success of the current strategy which has exceeded targets around investment and job creation and with inputs from a wide variety of stakeholders, aims to ensure that Ireland retains its attractiveness for FDI. Future Jobs Ireland is the Government's framework for preparing Ireland for the challenges it faces for the economy of tomorrow. Each year, a report is published which sets out the annual steps needed to deliver on the ultimate goal of increasing our economy's resilience and future-proofing it. It focuses on key policy areas and enablers such as innovation, technological change, productivity, skills, labour force participation and the transition to the low carbon economy. This will lead to the creation of productive, sustainable jobs by ensuring that we have skilled people working in quality jobs in sustainable sectors.

The Minister has not really addressed the purpose of the question which was to examine events outside the island and ask how we are responding. We already know that we are good in education, in demography and we are in the Single Market, so we have those advantages. Please God, we will also have access to the British market and will retain it. It is a big market. Tax regimes are changing, as the Minister pointed out, and have already changed quite substantially. Let us think beyond 2024; what about 2024-30? Are there serious discussions looking at what other countries are doing and what we should do to reposition ourselves to keep ahead of the game? The biggest danger in policy is always complacency with something that has succeeded up until now.

We continue to increase our footprint in other areas of the world. I recently returned from a trade mission to South Africa and Kenya. The population there is expected to increase by 1 billion over the next 30 years, I think. There are huge opportunities there. We are increasing our footprint in China and there was a trade mission to Japan some weeks ago. It is about not being over-reliant on one particular region and spreading our footprint into emerging economies. IDA Ireland is in the process of finalising its new strategy which will take account of the developing international tax environment. We must also consider our indigenous companies. The most important thing is to ensure that we support our indigenous companies in investing in R&D and innovation so that they can compete, scale up and reach new markets. Being competitive is the most important thing.

Job Creation

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

48. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the efforts she is making in conjunction with the IDA to secure foreign direct investment to rural parts of south County Kildare. [49752/19]

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

78. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of recent activities by the IDA in County Kildare towards job creation and attracting new industry to the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50044/19]

The Government's national planning framework and Project Ireland 2040 focus on making our counties, including Kildare, better places to live in, to work and to visit. In that context, what is the status of recent activity by IDA Ireland in County Kildare towards job creation and attracting new industry to our area so that we can provide more local employment opportunities for Kildare residents?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 78 together.

Regional development remains a key priority for the Department. We understand the importance of achieving the best possible spread of employment and investment across the country and my Department and its agencies have been working hard towards that goal. That will remain the case in 2020 and beyond.

It is therefore very positive that significant progress has already been made towards that objective. For example, 58% of all IDA Ireland client-supported employment is now situated outside Dublin. This figure represents the highest level of regional employment in the history of IDA Ireland and reflects the significant energy and resources invested in supporting regional development. We will seek to increase that number in 2020.

IDA Ireland continues to draw the attention of investors looking to locate in Kildare to every part of that county. There are 29 IDA Ireland-supported client companies in County Kildare, which collectively employ almost 8,900 people. This represents an increase of 4.5% over 2018 and I expect the final results for 2019 will show further employment growth. The county has a strong contingent of overseas firms in the technology, financial services and pharmaceuticals sectors. IDA Ireland clients such as Intel and Procter and Gamble are located in Kildare and continue to perform very well.

IDA Ireland's efforts to increase foreign direct investment, FDI, in Kildare is strengthened by the presence of Maynooth University. The university has been involved in a number of research projects with IDA Ireland client companies. The Hamilton Institute is a world leading research unit in ICT with a focus on drones, artificial intelligence and robotics and the Innovation Value Institute has been co-developed with Intel.

County Kildare remains a very attractive area in which to invest. We welcome the recent decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission to Intel for its proposed new €3.6 billion manufacturing fabrication, FAB, facility at Leixlip. This planning permission comes three years after Intel secured planning permission for the first phase of the FAB facility investment which was also valued at €3.6 billion. In total, these represent a €7.2 billion investment which will employ 6,000 construction workers at the peak of its development and 1,600 jobs on completion. This high calibre investment reflects Kildare's significant potential and we will be working hard to attract further investment from overseas companies to the county.

While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities, the Government remains determined to achieve more. That is why we are continuing to unlock the further future economic development of the county.

I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response. He is correct that many positive things are happening in Kildare around employment. As a Kildare South TD I must point out that most of that activity is in the northern end of the county which is closer to the Dublin metropolitan area. I want to see opportunities for people in south Kildare. The 2016 census data highlighted that Kildare has the sixth highest level of outbound commuters in the State at 39%.

According to the census, 31,710 Kildare residents are employed in the Dublin metropolitan area and, according to interim results from Kildare County Council's commuter survey, Kildare commuters spend, on average, one hour and nine minutes getting to and from work each day. Over 12% of commuters spend between one and a half and two hours going to and from work each day.

I want to see more plentiful opportunities for these people and I raise this matter in the context of seeking better job opportunities for my constituents in south Kildare. I welcome the decision of IDA Ireland to purchase a significant landbank at Little Connell outside Newbridge. This 111-acre site is a really exciting prospect for us and the Minister of State might outline the next steps for IDA Ireland in trying to promote the landbank and the employment opportunities for Kildare residents.

I thank the Deputy, who has been lobbying the Minister and me for more jobs into the Kildare region. I can confirm that IDA Ireland recently acquired a landbank measuring 85.5 ha. at Newbridge, County Kildare. The acquisition was a unique opportunity for IDA Ireland to acquire a strategic landbank of scale with the benefit of current and ongoing infrastructure delivery aligning with the organisational objectives of delivering high-quality property solutions for future industrial development needs to both FDI and indigenous enterprises. The location and availability of the new strategic landbank in the mid-east region will assist in enhancing the regional spread of FDI.

The site in Kildare is a very attractive option for potential IDA Ireland clients, given the close proximity to Dublin city centre, Dublin airport and the port tunnel. The M7 motorway provides access to Cork, Limerick and Waterford, and Newbridge would be a central location for companies to work with key clients at these locations. The proximity of the wider eastern-based third level ecosystem and talent pool would also be attractive to client companies. Mixed-used opportunities could be attractive for collaboration and diversity of activity, including digital services, which we mentioned, and manufacturing. Small companies could be clustered around large life science players in the region. It is really good news for the region and I know the Deputy will welcome it.

I very much welcome this really important news, although the next steps are crucial. For many years, Kildare has lacked a strategic landbank that we could advertise and sell to FDI and even indigenous Irish companies with significant employment opportunities. We have looked with envy across our border at South Dublin County Council and Greenogue, as well as Carlow's MSD plant. They create plenty of employment for our residents in Kildare but we want those opportunities. This significant investment by IDA Ireland, using State funds to buy this landbank, is absolutely crucial to us.

The Minister of State is correct that this comes on the back of strategic investment by the Government in the upgrading of the M7 motorway, which cost €110 million, and the expansion of the Newbridge interceptor sewer. The Barrow abstraction scheme will give us a secure supply of water. We need a second bridge for Newbridge, which will help alleviate our traffic congestion problems in the town. The greatest asset we have, beyond all those pieces of infrastructure that have seen investment by the Government, is our residents in Kildare South, who are skilled and well-educated. They do not want to be stuck on the M7 and M50 commuting back and forth. We want that improved quality of life. Will the Minister of State encourage his Department and IDA Ireland to work directly with Kildare County Council, the local enterprise office and us as local public representatives to market this site and get the investment into Kildare as soon as possible?

These are two pieces of good news for Deputy Heydon's constituency this week. The first is the decision of An Bord Pleanála on the Intel application. It is an innovative industry and Intel is a fantastic multinational company to have in the region. The availability of market servicing land and building in advance of demand remains a key element of IDA Ireland's ability to compete for mobile FDI. Not only does such a supply of properties help the agency to secure significant investment but it also allows projects to begin much earlier, as it diminishes the difficulties associated with land acquisition of a greenfield site, planning and construction. These are really important issues, particularly when we are trying to attract companies to Ireland. It is positive to have this in place for a company. One does not want matters associated with planning if looking at a site that has not yet been zoned. The Intel news and the announcement relating to the landbank will be great for County Kildare. I am sure there will be further investment in the region as we continue to attract FDI.

Question No. 49 replied to with Written Answers.

Job Creation

James Browne

Ceist:

50. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to address the quality of jobs in the south east and the need for further investment there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49749/19]

Will the Minister address the quality of jobs in the south east and the need for further investment there? The south-east region has had the highest rate of unemployment on a consistent basis throughout the lifetime of this Government.

I call the Minister of State.

On a point of order, last summer I asked a similar question and the senior Minister did not answer it.

That is not a point of order. It is a matter for the Department to determine who the appropriate Minister or Minister of State to answer a particular question is. It is the Minister of State who has indicated that he will answer.

There is no senior Minister in the south east and it is consistently lagging in the context of this matter.

That is not a point of order.

The senior Minister should be taking this question.

The Deputy should take his seat. That is not a point of order.

On what basis is the Minister allowed to delegate this question?

That is not a point of order. It is not a matter for the Chair to determine which Minister or Minister of State should respond.

Enterprise development and sustainable job creation in the regions is a key policy priority of this Government. A total of 20,900 more people in the south east are in employment in 2019 than in 2015 when the Regional Action Plan for Jobs started and unemployment in the south east has reduced from 11.7% to 7.3% in the same period.

Although we have had very good success through the Regional Action Plan for Jobs in reducing unemployment, in the context of Brexit and other global challenges we also need to focus on the creation of quality and sustainable jobs in the area. Future Jobs Ireland, launched earlier this year, is our plan to meet these challenges. It includes ambitious targets and actions to drive this transformation of our economy.

The Minister and I launched the south-east regional enterprise plan last March, with strategic objectives focused on building enterprise resilience, marketing the region, a regional engagement strategy on key infrastructure priorities, ensuring that the south east is a learning region and an area of tourism growth. The plan has commenced implementation, led by the regional steering committee, involving the local authorities, enterprise agencies, local enterprise offices, tourism bodies, higher education institutions, education and training boards and others.

In the south east, there were 15,580 people employed across 76 IDA Ireland client companies in 2018. This was an increase of almost 7% on 2017. IDA Ireland will continue to work to identify opportunities for new investment or expansion in the south east, promoting the region's existing concentrations of pharmaceuticals, medical technology, financial services, agricultural technology and high value manufacturing activities.

In 2018, there were 25,214 people employed in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in the south east, up 5% from 2017. Powering the Regions is Enterprise Ireland's new regional plan and it sets out the focus of its activities regionally, including for the south east. There was a net increase of 293 jobs supported by the five south-east local enterprise offices during 2018.

The south east has consistently had the highest rate of unemployment of any region but there is no focus on it. For the second time in six months, the senior Minister will not even address this matter. That is the level of contempt this Government is showing the south east.

Some 20,000 people are leaving Wexford in their cars each day in order to go to jobs elsewhere, with 14,000 of them from the Gorey area alone. They are stuck in a car park on the N11 because the Government will not address public transport issues. Many new train carriages have just been ordered but not one is for the Rosslare to Dublin rail line. We are told it will take 15 years for the N11 to be upgraded. A few minutes ago, we heard that 80 ha of land had been purchased in Kildare for the purposes of enterprise development. The land in question is in addition to that already being used to foster development in the county. There are 4 ha available in County Wexford and the head of IDA Ireland stated in a letter that there is no intention to purchase any further land there.

The south east is the forgotten region and Wexford is the forgotten county in the south east. The rate of tax returns for people working in the south east is half that of the rest of the country, which reflects the low quality of jobs available there. A little focus must be brought to this matter. I want the senior Minister to address the question for once, please.

It is unfair to say that the Minister has not taken an interest in the south east.

She is just sitting there.

The Minister has visited the south east on a number of occasions and I speak to her regularly on matters pertaining to the region.

Why can the Minister not speak for herself?

I told the Deputy that IDA Ireland jobs in the region had increased by 7% and that both the Minister and I regularly met IDA Ireland's representatives in the south east, including the representatives of Wexford, Waterford, etc.

In 2015, the unemployment rate stood at 11.7% and now stands at 5.3%. The national unemployment rate, which stood at 10.5%, has declined to 5.2% in the same period. The Deputy will note progress is being made in the south east driven by the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

A total of 20,900 more people in the south east are in employment. All the indications are that three out of every five new jobs created in 2018 and 2019 were outside Dublin. The work done by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in conjunction with IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the local enterprise offices, and driven by the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has delivered the reduction in unemployment in the south east. The Deputy cannot argue with the figures. I accept at one stage the unemployment rate in the south east was much higher than in other regions but it has substantially decreased. If the Deputy were to look back to 2013 and 2015 and then look forward to 2018 and 2019, he would note the substantial increase in employment in the south east.

The Minister of State said the unemployment rate in the south east was 5.3%. It is not. The 5.3% figure is the national average. The unemployment rate in the south east is 7.3%, which is 40% above the national average and twice the unemployment rate of Dublin. The quality of jobs is also a factor. The rate of tax returns from employed people in the south east is barely half the national average. People in the south east are working in low-paid jobs in tourism and agriculture. Quality jobs are not being brought to the region. There have been two visits by IDA Ireland to Wexford in the past year. Where is the focus? Where is the determination to address an important part of the country that is not being given the focus it needs?

Legislation was proposed specifically to develop a university for the south east, yet it is nowhere near being further advanced four years into the life of this Government. Rosslare Europort is operating at 38% capacity while down the road from this House in Dublin, ships are being turned away. Not one senior Minister has bothered to bring up the ownership of Rosslare Europort with his or her UK counterpart. There is a total and utter failure to address issues in the south east, emphasised and exemplified by the fact that, for a second time in a row, the senior Minister has not addressed the issue.

The Deputy is incorrect again. I said the unemployment rate in the south east reduced from 11.7% to 7.3%. I said the national employment rate decreased from 10.5% to 5.2%. The Deputy mentioned legislation to provide university status for the institutes in the region. Negotiations are already taking place between Waterford and Carlow institutes of technology.

They are working together.

Substantial money has been made available by the Government-----

That has been going on since I went to Waterford Institute of Technology 20 years ago.

-----to join the Institute of Technology Carlow and Waterford Institute of Technology, WIT. Both entities are engaged in negotiations.

The Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development in the south east, including the Department's regional enterprise development fund, REDF. As of June 2019, the south east region has secured a total of €10 million from the fund. The Minister announced a further €45 million of funding under call 3 of the REDF and she intends to announce the successful projects by the end of the year. The percentage of the funding being garnered by the south east is at least at the level, if not way ahead, of the funding being secured in other areas. The facts and figures are clear. Three out of every five jobs that have been created during the past nine months have been outside Dublin, with a substantial number created in the south east.

Harbours and Piers Development

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

51. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if her attention has been drawn to proposals to establish a new enterprise at a location (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50142/19]

My question relates to the former Stena terminal building in Dún Laoghaire Harbour and the moves by the council to develop some sort of new enterprise there. The problem is that elected representatives - councillors and I - and the wider public have no clue as to how the expressions of interest process was set up, how the council decided to pick a preferred bidder and what criteria were used in doing so given that it excluded some and included others. In addition, there was no public consultation as to how all this would contribute to enhancing Dún Laoghaire Harbour as a public amenity. I hope the Minister will be able to enlighten us as to what the hell is going on in Dún Laoghaire Harbour because the people of Dún Laoghaire do not know.

I may not be able to do that and I will tell Deputy the reason. I am aware of the proposal to which he referred. I understand the process is being led by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. I welcome the development of support infrastructures for enterprise development from any quarter. The development in this case does not fall under the jurisdiction of this Department. The reason is simple. The Deputy asked what we knew about this development. To date, the Department has not received any application. It would be foolish of me to give the Deputy a detailed analysis as to what is happening with regard to that particular development. My officials have informed me today that the Department has not received any application from the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority.

The Deputy may be aware that the Minister has made available three successive rounds of funding under the Department’s regional enterprise development fund, totalling €105 million. This fund is aimed at supporting the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at county, regional and national level. Applications to the fund must be from either a designated activity company, DAC, or a company limited by guarantee, CLG. I will explain that to the Deputy if wishes. To date, Dublin has received €9.3 million in funding through calls 1 and 2 of the REDF. The most recent round, a €45 million call 3 of the REDF, has closed and applications are being evaluated. The Minister will announce the successful projects on conclusion of the evaluation process in due course. Should the Government, through Enterprise Ireland, be in a position to launch further rounds of the REDF, the project promoters in this case may wish to consider applying for this competitive funding, subject to the project meeting the eligibility criteria for participation.

The Minister launched the Dublin regional enterprise plan last February, with strategic objectives focused on availability of skills and talent; increasing enterprise engagement in research, development and innovation; building a pipeline of sustainable start-ups; and enhancing the attractiveness of Dublin as a place to live and invest.

The Minister of State's time is up. He will have an opportunity to contribute again.

All I can say is the plot thickens. I would be delighted if there were funds available under the Department's regional enterprise development fund. What I find an absolute mystery is that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council decided on a preferred bidder to set up a new enterprise in this central location in the middle of Dún Laoghaire Harbour and it has not even spoken to the Department about it. There is no more important site in Dún Laoghaire. The council will not tell local councillors or Deputies about this development and, needless to say, the public have been completely kept in the dark, even though the site in question is in public ownership. We discovered yesterday that the council decided it had a preferred bidder, a crowd called Lapetus Investments headed by Hilary Haydon. I took the trouble to go online to see who these people were and found they had an address in an accountancy firm on Amiens Street. That is all I could find out about them. They have now been given the green light by the unelected executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to take over the centre of Dún Laoghaire Harbour. This is unbelievable. I am not blaming the Minister of State for not knowing about it but it is shocking that this could be done without any engagement with the public as to what they might like in their harbour in their town.

As the development referred to by the Deputy is being led by the local authority in Dún Laoghaire, it does not fall within the remit of the Department. To be frank, the Minister and I have not been given any substantial information on the development.

As I stated, the Department's REDF, totalling €105 million, was made available to stimulate enterprise growth and job creation in Ireland, including in the Dublin region. It is up to the councillors in the region and the local authority in Dún Laoghaire to make contact with the Department. I can give the Deputy all sorts of information about Dublin and what is involved but this development does not come under my Department's remit. I have been told by the officials that no application has been made to the Department. Therefore, it is almost impossible for us to comment on the important issue the Deputy has raised regarding the site.

It should be a matter of concern to the Government that an unelected executive is making decisions about a very important site, which is of huge value to the people of the area and could generate significant employment and benefits for the area, without reference to anybody. I cannot get information in the House. In the email I have in my hand, councillors are told that a preferred bidder has been picked but that they cannot be told who that bidder is until such time as all negotiations are complete. They will be told after the decision has been made and the contracts signed. I am aware that at least five other companies submitted expressions of interest but these were dismissed by the executive of the council without any democratic discussion with either the Minister of State or the council. That is not the way to do business with public property. This site in Dún Laoghaire is beloved and absolutely critical to the future of the town. People wish to locate a national maritime and marine sports centre or a diaspora museum at the site. They want something that will create employment opportunities to the benefit of the town rather than a mystery development. No one has any knowledge about, or say in, what the hell is going on in our town and harbour.

We are aware of the proposals. That is all we are aware of. As I said in my initial response, we understand that this is being led by the local authority in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Having been on a local authority for many years, as the Deputy also has, I imagine that, if he feels something is not right, it would be up to the councillors of that authority to hold people to account.

The executive will not tell us about it. It is a secret.

It would also be up to the Dún Laoghaire authority to make contact with the Department on the relevant issues, if it believes that is necessary. To be frank, the Deputy and I have both sat on councils to which applications are consistently made which are not referred to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. This happens on many occasions. I will commit to investigating this matter to the best of the Department's ability and I will come back to the Deputy in that regard. If I say we will do that, we will do that. The current position, however, is that this matter is not within the Department's remit.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.