Trade Union Membership

Ceisteanna (50)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

50. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to legislate to give workers the right to join a trade union and have the trade union of their choice recognised by their employer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8006/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The right of workers to form associations and join a trade union is enshrined in Article 40 of the Irish Constitution. However, our Superior Courts have established that the Constitutional guarantee of the freedom of association does not guarantee workers the right to have their union recognised for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Notwithstanding this, it has been the consistent policy of successive Irish Governments to promote collective bargaining through legislation and by the development of an institutional framework supportive of a voluntary system of industrial relations that is premised upon freedom of contract and freedom of association. There is an extensive range of statutory provisions designed to support collective bargaining within the concept of voluntarism. The freedom of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively are also guaranteed in a number of international instruments which the State has ratified and which it is, therefore, bound to uphold under international law.

A decision by this Government to legislate for an improved framework in this area resulted in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 which came into effect on 1 August 2015.

The legislation provides a clear and balanced mechanism by which the fairness of the employment conditions of workers in their totality can be assessed in employments where collective bargaining does not take place and brings clarity and certainty for employers in terms of managing their workplaces in this respect.

Given this background, and the robust measures which have been put in place to support collective bargaining within a voluntarist industrial relations framework, the Government has no plans to legislate further on trade union recognition.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Ceisteanna (51)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

51. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of regional IDA Ireland site visits and vacant IDA Ireland properties nationwide at 31 December 2018 by county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11170/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Regional development is a key priority for my 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. Significant progress has already been made, with 58% of all IDA client-supported employment now located outside of Dublin. This figure represents the highest such figure in the history of the Agency. Our aim is to increase this percentage further in 2019.

The availability of marketable serviced land and buildings in advance of demand is a key element in the IDA's ability to compete for mobile foreign direct investment (FDI). Not only does such a supply of properties help the Agency to secure high quality jobs but it also allows projects to begin at an earlier date by diminishing difficulties associated with land acquisition, planning and construction. It therefore remains an important means by which the IDA can encourage and attract new investors to Ireland. The IDA currently owns 29 properties across Ireland. Of these, 14 are occupied by IDA clients with the remainder available for prospective or existing investors. The table below sets out the location of these various properties.

Site visits help the IDA showcase regional locations to prospective investors. The Agency hosted 607 site visits in 2018, with over 55% of these visits taking place in regional locations.

I want to emphasise that the IDA does its utmost to encourage its clients to locate or expand in regional Ireland. This is just as much a priority for the Agency as it is for my Department and the Government. Indeed, the IDA is continuing to target an increase of investment of 30% to 40% in every region by the end of its current strategy in 2019. At the same time, we must recognise that the final decision as to where to invest always rests with the firm concerned. It is also the case, no matter what efforts we make to underline the undoubted benefits of regional locations, that certain overseas companies will only consider investing in large urban areas for various commercial or operational reasons.

We are though achieving real results in deepening the spread of regional FDI. The IDA’s 2018 results bear out that assessment. Last year the Agency delivered 113 regional investments with 56% of net new jobs created outside Dublin. Moreover, the last four years have seen over 44,000 new FDI-driven jobs created outside the capital. We will continue to do our utmost to reinforce and strengthen these positive trends and to further job creation across all parts of Ireland.

The following table outlines the number and status of IDA owned properties by County.

County

Occupied

Marketable

Total

Cork

0

3

3

Dublin

3

0

3

Galway

3

2

5

Kerry

3

3

6

Mayo

1

0

1

Offaly

1

0

1

Sligo

1

1

2

Tipperary

1

0

1

Waterford

0

3

3

Westmeath

1

1

2

Wicklow

0

2

2

Total

14

15

29

The following table outlines the number of IDA site visits by county in each quarter of 2018.

County

Q1 2018

Q2 18

Q3 2018

Q4 2018

Full Year 2018

Carlow

1

2

0

4

7

Cavan

0

1

0

1

2

Clare

4

3

2

4

13

Cork

10

14

21

16

61

Donegal

0

3

3

2

8

Dublin

69

72

68

60

269

Galway

10

20

12

12

54

Kerry

0

5

3

2

10

Kildare

4

0

1

3

8

Kilkenny

0

2

1

2

5

Laois

4

2

1

3

10

Leitrim

2

3

0

1

6

Limerick

8

7

10

10

35

Longford

0

0

2

3

5

Louth

6

6

3

5

20

Mayo

2

2

3

3

10

Meath

1

3

1

1

6

Monaghan

0

1

0

2

3

Offaly

0

1

3

1

5

Roscommon

0

1

1

1

3

Sligo

5

3

4

3

15

Tipperary

1

1

2

1

5

Waterford

5

9

5

2

21

Westmeath

3

9

6

4

22

Wexford

0

1

2

0

3

Wicklow

0

1

0

0

1

Total

135

172

154

146

607

Brexit Negotiations

Ceisteanna (52)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

52. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the discussions she has had with the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the economic uncertainty and the difficulties that will arise for business, commerce and employment in the Border region, both North and South, due to Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11231/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I can assure the deputy that both I and the Ministers of State at my Department have taken every opportunity to engage with UK and EU counterparts to outline the unique challenges facing Ireland from Brexit and to advance Ireland’s priorities in this context.

As somebody who has lived all my life in a Border county, I am acutely aware of the concerns in communities all across the Border region about the final Brexit outcome and the potential impacts on their lives, businesses, farms and families. The integrated nature of the trading relationship that runs north and south of this island and the strong economic links are very clear to all.

As the deputy will be aware, negotiations on both the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the framework for the EU-UK future relationship, were conducted on behalf of the EU27 by the EU's Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the Commission's Article 50 Taskforce.

Since taking up office as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation I have met with various UK Ministers, particularly Ministers at the Department of International Trade, the Department responsible for developing the UK’s post-Brexit trade and investment relationship with the EU, to discuss issues including Ireland-UK trade and the impact of Brexit on this relationship.

- In January 2018 I met with Hilary Benn MP and a group of UK Parliamentarians to discuss issues around the UK exiting the EU.

- In February 2018 I met with Minister of State at the Department for International Trade, Mr Greg Hands MP.

- In April 2018 during an EI trade mission to Manchester I met with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr Andy Burnham at which Brexit, among other issues, was discussed.

- In June 2018, on a visit to London I met with the Secretary of State for International Trade, Mr Liam Fox MP and with the Minister of State in the Department for International Trade, Mr Greg Hands MP. This meeting agenda focused on Ireland-UK trade, EU trade policy and global trade challenges.

- During my visit to London in June 2018 I also met with the Minister of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ms Claire Perry MP to discuss industrial strategy and innovation.

- In September 2018 in the course of a trade mission to Scotland, I met with the Scottish Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Mr Ivan McKee.

- At various EU Council meetings this year I have met with various EU counterparts, including UK colleagues, both formally and informally. This included meetings with the UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Mr Greg Hands MP and, on two occasions with the U.K. Minister of State for Trade Policy, Mr George Hollingbery MP. Maintaining the strength of the Irish-UK trading relationship was a key focus of these discussions.

My Ministerial colleagues, Ministers Pat Breen and John Halligan have also, at various times, met with their UK counterparts.

Minister Breen met with the following UK counterparts:

- Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Lord Henley in March 2018 and in May 2018;

- Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown MSP in March 2018;

- Minister for State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Margot James in April 2018;

- Scottish Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Ivan McKee in August 2018;

- Minister of State for Trade Policy, Mr George Hollingbery in November 2018.

Minister Halligan met in February 2018, May 2018, and February 2019 with the UK Minister for Higher Education and for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah. Minister Halligan also met Minister Joseph Johnson, then Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation in Tallinn, Estonia on 24th July 2017 on the margins of the Informal meeting of Research Ministers. The purpose of the meeting was to enhance the existing bilateral research and innovation cooperation and identify new areas of opportunity for UK and Irish researchers and innovators to collaborate further.

I can further assure the deputy that my Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports, loan schemes and advice to assist businesses to prepare for Brexit. I am particularly committed to ensuring that Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and InterTrade Ireland (ITI) continue to work with companies in the Border region to drive innovation, competitiveness, internationalisation and Brexit preparedness.

As part of Budget 2019, I allocated an additional €1million to InterTradeIreland (ITI). The ITI Brexit Advisory Service provides a focal point for SMEs working to navigate any changes in cross-border trading post-Brexit. ITI also offers a Brexit Start to Plan voucher scheme, worth up to €2,250, for professional advice on preparing for Brexit and I am pleased with the very positive take-up to date of the ITI voucher scheme.

I also allocated additional capital funding of €5 million in Budget 2019 to the LEOs to step-up their Brexit preparedness work. Some 402 LEO clients have benefitted from one-to-one Brexit mentoring. In addition, the six LEOs in the Border region are working together with their Northern Ireland counterparts under the EU Co-Innovate Programme, to help firms to innovate, differentiate and compete. Recently I launched the LEO customs training programme aimed at familiarising companies with customs procedures.

Enterprise Ireland has a wide range of supports available and are actively engaged with companies in helping them to prepare. Enterprise Ireland Annual Results for 2018 showed that every region in Ireland recorded increases in employment, including a 9% increase in the North West and a 3% increase in the North East. Over 23,700 of the 215,207 employed in supported companies are in the Border region.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (53)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

53. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the amount that will be made available through agencies under the aegis of her Department to support businesses that will be affected if Brexit becomes a reality; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11041/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Brexit represents a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland, which cannot be underestimated. That’s why my Department started developing supports for businesses from the time when Brexit first became a possibility. Government’s priority is to ensure that businesses around the country can manage risks and avail of any opportunities. This has informed the range of advisory and financial supports that are in place.

My Department gross allocation for 2019 is €952.2million. This represents an increase of €79.2m (+9.1%) on our 2018 allocation of €871m and includes a record Capital budget increase of €65m (+11.7%) and an additional €14.2m (+4.5%) in Current funding.

The additional current funding secured in Budget includes an additional €8m package to support our Brexit Response and to expand the Global Footprint of our Agencies. Specifically, Budget 2019 will increase the current funding of the Department’s Agencies as follows:

- Enterprise Ireland - +€3.0m

- IDA Ireland - +€2.0m

- Health & Safety Authority - +€482k

- National Standards Authority of Ireland - +€400k

- Competition & Consumer Protection Commission - +€360k

The increased current allocations secured in Budget 2019 follow on from specific Brexit focused increases secured by my Department in both Budgets 2017 and 2018. The additional funding has enabled the Department’s Agencies to continue to increase their staffing resources as well as fund related promotional and regulatory activities.

Aside from the additional current funding being provided in Budget 2019, additional capital funding has also been provided to the Department’s Enterprise Agencies, including IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices, Science Foundation Ireland to enable them to continue their preparations in Getting Business Brexit Ready.

The increased allocations secured by my Department in the last three Budgets clearly demonstrates my commitment to providing our Agencies with the necessary resources to enable them to continue to support businesses in their efforts to grow and provide employment while safeguarding against global challenges including Brexit.

Job Creation Data

Ceisteanna (54)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

54. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the additional jobs created in 2018 in the west and midlands region in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11246/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The recently published Q4 2018 CSO Labour Force Survey employment figures are overall very positive. Figures show that overall, employment continues to grow strongly with 50,500 jobs created in the year from Q4 2017 to Q4 2018. This brings total employment to 2,281,300, the highest number at work ever recorded.

The additional jobs created in 2018 in the West and the Midlands regions are set out in Table 1 below:

Change in the number of persons aged 15 years and over in employment from Q4 2017 to Q4 2018

Region

Change Q4 2017 to Q4 2018

West

8,300

Midlands

4,100

Source: CSO Labour Force Survey, Q4 2018

Both the Midlands and the West regions have shown excellent progress in employment levels over the period of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017.

From Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q4 2018, a total of 20,000 more people are in employment in the Midlands to Q4 2018, while in the West, 28,400 more people have entered employment.

Unemployment has more than halved in both the Midlands and the West over the same period: from 12.6 percent to 5.8 percent in the West; and from 14.9 percent to 6.6 percent in the Midlands.

We remain committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10 and 15 per cent in each region by 2020 and to bring and/or maintain unemployment levels in each region to within at least one percentage point of the State average.

To that end, in April 2018, I asked all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees, including in the Midlands and West regions, to start a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020, so that they continue to deliver jobs across the country, in every region, and can be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit.

The outcome of this refresh process is nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. I am currently in the process of launching the new Plans, with eight Plans launched to date, including for the West and Midlands.

Shaped from the ‘bottom-up’ by regional stakeholders, and overseen by my Department, the new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and, there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed and the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative.

The principle behind the Regional Enterprise Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential so that all regions can meet and exceed the regional job creation targets set to 2020. These stakeholders include: the Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’, and others.

It is also important to note that as well as meeting the numerical targets, it is also about creating jobs that are of good quality and sustainable over the longer term.

The Government is focused on this agenda at the national level through the Future Jobs Ireland initiative, and we are focused on this agenda through these new Regional Enterprise Plans.

Work Permits Applications Data

Ceisteanna (55)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

55. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she is considering adding professional roles to the critical skills work permit lists in order to meet the extreme skills shortages in some sectors; the steps being taken to increase the speed at which work permits are being issued; and the number of outstanding work permits in all sectors that remain to be processed. [11171/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I am very well aware of the skills shortages currently being experienced in some sectors of the economy. The issue is all the more pressing given the strong economic growth being experienced and high demand being placed on a number of sectors to respond to a range of needs across the economy. Officials of my Department and I have also met with sector representatives to discuss the labour and skills challenges in sectors such as construction and hospitality.

The Critical Skills Employment Permit is designed to attract highly skilled people into the labour market with the aim of encouraging them to take up permanent residence in the State. Eligible occupations under this type of permit are deemed to be critically important to growing Ireland’s economy, are highly demanded and highly skilled, and in significant shortage of supply in our labour market. Occupations such as ICT professionals, professional engineers and technologists are catered for under this type of employment permit. Eligible occupations are largely determined in line with the research undertaken by the Skills and Labour Market research Unit (Solas), the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, input from relevant Government Departments, Offices and Agencies and through public consultation with regard to the labour market requirements in respect of strategically important skills.

The employment permits system is managed through the operation of the Critical Skills Occupations List and the Ineligible Occupations List. These lists are reviewed twice yearly to keep pace with rapid labour market changes and to be proactively identifying and addressing shortages as they arise.

A review of the occupation lists is being currently being finalised and my officials, in consultation with officials from a number of lead policy Government Departments, is actively considering the submissions received. I expect, in the very short term, to receive proposals, based on the evidence presented and extensive consultation with the Interdepartmental Group on Economic Migration, for changes to both the ineligible and critical skilled occupation lists.

At the end of December some 16,800 applications were received which were approx. 30% higher than 2017. Over the same period some 13,400 permits were granted representing an almost 20% increase over last year. Quarter 4 in 2018 saw the highest number of permits issued in any quarter in the previous 10 years.

As at 1st March 2019 there are currently approximately 1,980 permit applications in the processing queue down from a peak of 3,230 in September 2018. Through a combination of increased resources, staff working overtime and ICT and operational improvements, processing times are now at 3 weeks for Trusted Partners, and 13 weeks for standard applications. Further improvements are expected in the coming weeks.

As well as the short-term measures introduced to date, the development of a new IT system is being explored which will take advantage of all the new technologies available, including full digitisation. In parallel with this new development, my Department is determined to continue to reduce processing times and is engaging extensively with stakeholders to ensure that they are fully aware of the situation.

State Bodies Code of Conduct

Ceisteanna (56)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

56. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if a policy exists for the way in which one of the jobs agencies of the State interacts with the client companies of another State jobs agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies provides the overarching policy by which all State bodies, including the enterprise agencies under my remit, are governed.

This Code is designed to ensure that both commercial and non-commercial State bodies meet the highest standards of corporate governance. It provides a framework for the application of best practice and is intended to take account of developments in respect of oversight, reporting requirements and the appointment of Board members. The Code is based on the underlying principles of good governance, accountability, transparency, probity and a focus on the sustainable success of an organisation over the longer term.

In line with the high-level principles set out in the Code, State bodies and agencies can agree any formal or informal cooperative arrangements with other parties that are required to ensure their ongoing effectiveness. One example of such an agreement is the Communications and Engagement Protocol on respective client engagement between IDA Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta. I am happy to provide the Deputy with a copy of this Protocol for his information.

More broadly, our enterprise agencies work closely with one another on a virtual daily basis on a range of matters. The IDA and Enterprise Ireland, for example, cooperate regularly on trade and investment missions abroad. They also work together closely on property-related matters.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (57)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

57. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she has sought the waiving of state aid rules from the European Commission to assist the domestic economy from Brexit fallout; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10631/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I can assure the deputy that my Department and I are in ongoing dialogue with colleagues in the European Commission DG Competition in relation to the issues arising for Ireland in the context of various Brexit scenarios and the potential severe impacts on the Irish enterprise base, jobs and regional economies.

Specifically, on 24th January 2019, I met with Commissioner Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition who has responsibility for EU State aid policy, at my Department. The focus of the meeting centred around the severe challenges that Irish businesses, especially SMEs, will face when the UK leaves the European Union and the need for appropriate and timely State supports. It was agreed that Irish officials will continue to work closely with the Commissioner’s team in addressing any State aid issues that may arise to ensure a rapid and appropriate response as the ultimate shape of Brexit and its firm-level implications become known. The Commissioner emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

My officials have ongoing engagement with senior officials in DG Competition. In November 2017, my predecessor Minister met with Commissioner Vestager to discuss, amongst other things, the impact of Brexit on Irish businesses. An outcome from this meeting was the establishment of a Technical Working Group comprising representatives from DG Competition, the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The objective of the Group is to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules.

Much has been achieved by this Working Group. It has examined and explored a range of opportunities within State Aid rules including the development of the Future Growth Loan Scheme under GBER rules, and the expansion of Ireland’s Rescue and Restructuring Scheme to include Temporary liquidity aid, and to increase the budget for the Rescue & Restructuring Scheme to €200 million. Through the mechanism of the Technical Working Group Ireland has fully utilised the provisions of the State aid framework to enable the investment by Enterprise Ireland of €74 million in Brexit impacted businesses in 2018.

The Group is currently working closely with DG Agriculture to explore the range of opportunities under the Agriculture and Forestry State aid guidelines, and as part of this State Aid approval was received in February for capital investment by Enterprise Ireland in an Irish cheese producing company, Carbery Food Ingredients Ltd, to help the company towards financing a diversification project to mitigate the impacts of Brexit.

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

Ceisteanna (58)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

58. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the progress in strengthening the powers and effectiveness of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11044/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Organisational reforms in the ODCE were commenced in 2012 to enhance the capability of the Office to investigate complex breaches of company law and to ensure a more efficient and effective use of its resources. These include:

- Reorganising the structure of the Office;

- Recruiting additional expertise, including 8 Forensic Accountants, a Digital Forensic Specialist, 2 Enforcement Portfolio Managers and 2 Enforcement Lawyers;

- As senior-level vacancies have arisen, reconfiguration of the skill sets, competencies, roles and responsibilities associated with those posts to better reflect the organisation's current needs;

- Amending the investigative procedures used by the Office so that members of An Garda Síochána take the lead in all criminal investigations; and

- Fostering a greater culture of risk management within the Office.

One of the actions in the Government's package of Measures to Enhance Ireland’s Corporate, Economic and Regulatory Framework, published in November 2017, is the establishment of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as a stand-alone agency.

The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 to establish the ODCE as a stand-alone agency was published on 4 December 2018. The General Scheme is currently subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Changing the structure of the ODCE from an office to a statutory agency will provide greater autonomy to the agency in relation to staffing resources and ensure it is better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. Sourcing of expertise and specialist staff, such as forensic accountants, will be enhanced under the agency model.

The establishment of the ODCE as a stand-alone agency is intended to:

- Enhance the ODCE’s independence, by providing it with more autonomy, particularly the ability to recruit the required specialist skills and expertise;

- Build on its existing expertise and experience;

- Strengthen its capability to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law; and

- Build on the organisational and procedural reforms that have been implemented.

The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 also introduces new, or develops existing, powers and investigative tools for the new Authority.

These are –

- Enhanced search and entry powers to meet the changes arising from technological advances and to allow the Authority to get a search warrant that enables it to search for electronic records that a company may hold on a server that is remote from the company or to be able to use its own equipment (Head 46);

- A provision on the admissibility of written statements (Head 45);

- Power for the Authority to request that a person acting as a liquidator provide evidence to it that he or she is qualified to act as a liquidator in accordance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2014 (Head 41);

- New grounds to apply to the Courts for an Order to restrict a person from acting as a director in winding-up situations (Head 38). This is intended to address the situation where a director does not conduct an orderly winding up of a company.

Alongside these provisions in the General Scheme, my Department is working with the Department of Justice and Equality with a view to giving the new Authority a power under the forthcoming Communications (Retention of Data) Bill to apply directly to the courts to retain specified telecommunication records for an investigation.

Regional Development Policy

Ceisteanna (59)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

59. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the performance of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in terms of attracting investment and creating jobs in the regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11172/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As Minister, regional development is one of my absolute priorities. I am focused both on sustaining existing employment in the regions whilst also working to significantly grow both job creation and investment in every county of the country.

The recent annual results of the IDA have shown that we are making significant progress in increasing foreign direct investment (FD) supported jobs in the regions. In 2018, for example, 56% of all net new jobs created by the Agency were in locations outside Dublin. Similarly, every region in Ireland posted net gains in jobs last year. There are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies outside the capital with 58% of all IDA-supported employment now outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed in the regions by IDA clients in the Agency’s history with 2018 seeing more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years.

The IDA is working, on a daily basis, to promote regional cities and towns to potential investors. Since the beginning of IDA Ireland’s ‘Winning’ Strategy in 2015, 407 investments have been secured for the regions and almost 27,000 net jobs have been added on the ground in locations outside Dublin. To put that in context, an average of 102 investments have been won annually for locations beyond Dublin, compared to an annual average of 69 under the previous strategy. This a testament to the focus IDA Ireland has placed on regional investment and the whole of government action to enhance our regional offering.

It is important to emphasise that FDI only forms one part of investment in regional locations. Indigenous enterprise is responsible for a significant portion of employment growth, especially outside Dublin. Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland created over 9,000 net new jobs last year with every region benefitting from these increases in employment. There are now over 215,000 people employed in EI-supported companies, with 64% of these jobs located outside of Dublin.

I remain optimistic about the job creation potential of Irish companies across the regions. To date, I have launched eight of nine Regional Enterprise Plans that my Department has spearheaded with regional stakeholders. The final plan for the South East will be launched on 22 March. These Plans will play an important role in encouraging regional investment and job creation across the regions.

I want to emphasise that creating jobs in the regions will remain a key objective of the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and my Department. We are collectively focused on delivering the fairest possible spread of investment across the country. The energy and resources we have invested into regional growth is, as the evidence illustrates, producing results. We will continue to do our utmost to encourage further such job growth across all parts of Ireland in the time ahead.

Regional Enterprise Development Fund

Ceisteanna (60)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

60. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the regional enterprise plans; her views on the way in which this will impact County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11247/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

In April 2018, I asked all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020, so that they continue to deliver jobs across the country, in every region, and can be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit.

The outcome of this refresh process is nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. I am currently in the process of launching the new Plans, with eight Plans launched to date.

Shaped from the ‘bottom-up’ by regional stakeholders, and overseen by my Department, the new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and, there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed and the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative.

They are two-year, focused Plans, which are also ‘live’ documents, so new initiatives can be adopted during their operation by the regional stakeholders working together.

The principle behind the Regional Enterprise Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential. These stakeholders include: the Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’, and others.

I launched the new Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-East region, which covers Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, on the 7th February in Naas.

The Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-East is focused around four ‘Strategic Objectives’ as follows:

1. Develop the Mid-East as a hub for the Screen Content Creation Sector;

2. Develop a network of innovative co-working spaces;

3. Build an ecosystem framework to support the agrifood sector in the Boyne Valley;

4. Ensure the availability of skills and talent to realise the Mid-East’s future economic potential and address upskilling requirements.

Each of the four Strategic Objectives includes a focus on Co. Kildare as part of the Mid-East region, although the Local Authority in Co. Kildare will lead on Strategic Objective 2, i.e. the development of a network of innovative co-working spaces.

The Strategic Objectives and actions in the Mid-East Plan are set out alongside the Enterprise Agencies’ (Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland) and the LEOs’ core activities in Co. Kildare and the wider region. In this way the new Plans add value and support the work of the Agencies on the ground in the Mid-East, through a collaborative approach.

The unemployment rate in the Mid-East region, which includes Co. Kildare (along with Meath and Wicklow) has reduced from 9.6 percent in Q1 2015 to 4.9 percent in Q4 2018, currently the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country.

The focus for Co. Kildare and the Mid-East over the period to 2020 under the new Regional Enterprise Plan will be to maintain an emphasis on employment growth, aiming to outperform the rate of growth achieved since 2015 to date and to ensure that sustainable, quality jobs are created and maintained the region. The collaborative strategic objectives and actions in this Plan, along with the core activities of the various Agencies and Bodies involved in supporting enterprise development over the coming two-year period will support this.

Finally, it is important to note that the Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development, and the Mid-East has seen a number of successes through these ongoing initiatives. They include my Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund; the Rural and Urban Regeneration and Development Funds under Project Ireland 2040; and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

Under the €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), the Mid-East region has secured total funding of over €3.4 million to date under the two completed Calls - one of these projects, the development of the Mid East Regional Innovation Think Space (MERITS) enterprise centre, which will shortly commence construction in Naas, involves an investment of just over €1.9 million from the REDF.

Guided by this new Regional Enterprise Plan, Co. Kildare and the wider Mid-East region and is well positioned to build on this success and to continue to see the benefits and results of collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region.

Regional Enterprise Development Fund

Ceisteanna (61)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

61. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the regional enterprise plans; her views on the way in which this will benefit County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11206/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

In April 2018, I asked all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020, so that they continue to deliver jobs across the country, in every region, and can be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit.

The outcome of this refresh process is nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. I am currently in the process of launching the new Plans, with eight Plans launched to date.

Shaped from the ‘bottom-up’ by regional stakeholders, and overseen by my Department, the new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and, there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed and the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative.

They are two-year, focused Plans, which are also ‘live’ documents, so new initiatives can be adopted during their operation by the regional stakeholders working together.

The principle behind the Regional Enterprise Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential. These stakeholders include: the Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’, and others.

I launched the new Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-West region, which covers Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, on the 20th February at the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation site at Lisheen, Co. Tipperary.

The Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-West is focused around six ‘Strategic Objectives’ and each of the six Objectives involves a focus on Co. Limerick as part of the Mid-West region; as follows:

1. Enable a digital and innovation economy and make the Mid-West Ireland’s leading smart city-region;

2. Achieve a step-change in progress toward a low carbon economy in the Mid-West;

3. Continue to develop workforce skills and talent and enhance the attractiveness of living and working in the Mid-West;

4. Develop the region's capacity to deliver economic growth;

5. Build a coordinated regional messaging brand for consistent communication.

Initiatives to be pursued under the Plan's Objectives of particular significance for Limerick City and County include; the development of an Autonomous Mobility Testbed; the positioning of Limerick/Mid-West as a national centre for advanced manufacturing; and the development of a Sports Tech cluster - building on the initial study by Limerick City and Co. Council.

The Strategic Objectives and actions in the Mid-West Plan are set out alongside the Enterprise Agencies’ (Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland) and the LEOs’ core activities in Co. Limerick and the wider region. In this way the new Plans add value and support the work of the Agencies on the ground in the Mid-West, through a collaborative approach.

It is encouraging that the unemployment rate in the Mid-West region, which includes Co. Limerick (along with Clare and Tipperary) has reduced from 12 percent in Q1 2015 to 5.6 percent in Q4 2018, just above the unemployment rate for the State as a whole.

The focus for Co. Limerick and the Mid-West over the period to 2020 under the new Regional Enterprise Plan will be to maintain an emphasis on employment growth, aiming to outperform the rate of growth achieved since 2015 to date and to ensure that sustainable, quality jobs are created and maintained the region. The collaborative strategic objectives and actions in this Plan, along with the core activities of the various Agencies and Bodies involved in supporting enterprise development over the coming two-year period will support this.

Finally, it is important to note that the Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development, and the Mid-West has seen many successes through these ongoing initiatives. They include my Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund; the Rural and Urban Regeneration and Development Funds under Project Ireland 2040; and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

Under the €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), the Mid-West region has secured total funding of over €9.5 million to date under the two completed Calls - three of these projects are of direct relevance to Co. Limerick: the Emerald Aerocluster CLG which is a cluster of indigenous manufacturing companies in the aerospace sector, was awarded €250,000; the BNest Social Initiative DAC which is an initiative that will assist businesses seeking social impact to achieve viability and scale through various development programmes received over €600,000; and Innovate Limerick/Hospital Food Units DAC received almost €2.3 million to establish a Digital Collaboration Centre in Limerick City.

Guided by this new Regional Enterprise Plan, the region and Co. Limerick is well positioned to build on this success and to continue to see the benefits and results of collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region.

Personal Injuries Commission

Ceisteanna (62)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

62. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the timeline for implementation of each of the 14 recommendations made by the Personal Injuries Commission regarding personal injury awards. [11168/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) made a total of 14 recommendations across its two reports, which are aimed at positively impacting the overall Irish claims environment.

The First Report of the PIC, published in December 2017 made four recommendations.

- In regard to recommendation one – the adoption of a standardised approach to the examination and reporting of soft-tissue injuries, PIAB has rolled out the medical template to A&E consultants and GPs and will roll out to orthopaedic consultants shortly, by which point the roll out to PIAB’s independent medical panel will be complete. Insurance Ireland reported that it has distributed the medical reporting template to its members, who will begin to implement the use of the form within their individual companies.

- On the second recommendation, PIAB are engaging with Irish College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to develop a training package for medical professionals who complete personal injury medical reports.

- The third recommendation relates to the Book of Quantum. This has been superseded by the PIC’s Second and Final Report which recommends that a Judicial Council, when established, be requested by the Minister for Justice and Equality to compile judicial guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury.

- The fourth recommendation advocates that relevant injury data be collated and published by appropriate bodies. PIAB published data, on 5 November 2018, in relation to whiplash-related injury compensation awards resulting from road traffic accidents, in line with this recommendation.

The Second and Final Report made a further 10 recommendations. While they are not timebound, I would expect that they should be implemented as soon as possible by the relevant bodies. Following publication of this Report, I wrote to relevant Government colleagues and other organisations including the Garda Commissioner, Insurance Ireland, The Law Society, The Council of the Bar of Ireland and the Law Reform Commission seeking co-operation in advancing the implementation of the recommendations relevant to them.

Progress on implementing the recommendations will be reported on through the Cost of Insurance Working Group Progress Reports.

Four of these recommendations relate directly to recommendations in the two Cost of Insurance Working Group Reports. The updates below provide detail on the implementation of the remaining six as at the end of 2018.

- Recommendations one and two provide that the Judicial Council when established, be requested to compile guidelines for appropriate general damages award levels for various types of personal injury. Due to the time required to enact and operationalise the Judicial Council Bill, the Department of Justice and Equality is working with PIAB on a process whereby an interim guideline relating to the priority soft-tissue/whiplash area would be delivered. Options to achieve this will shortly be proposed for discussion with the judiciary and the Courts Service as appropriate.

- Recommendation four provides for the development and roll-out in all relevant locations of ‘Best Practice’ standard treatment plans for soft tissue injuries. The HSE’s Emergency Medicine Programme (EMP) has advised that the model outlined in the PIC’s case study, whereby patients are referred early to a physiotherapist when treating soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash, is both recommended and common practice in Emergency Departments. It strongly endorses the implementation of this approach and has agreed to survey the availability of these resources nationally.

- Recommendation five provides that in cases where an insurer deals directly with a claimant, no offer of settlement or payment of a personal injury claim can be made unless and until a detailed medical report has been obtained. Insurance Ireland has advised that it is standard practice for insurers to base personal injury claims settlements on medical reports.

- Recommendation nine encourages insurers and other relevant parties to adopt the same internationally recognised injury coding system (the World Health Organisation’s ICD-10 system). Insurance Ireland has advised that this will be considered by insurers on an individual basis.

- Recommendation ten relates to the establishment of a National Medical Research Study on the Prevention and Management of Soft Tissue (‘Whiplash’) Injuries. Insurance Ireland are currently in discussions with a third-level institution about commissioning this research.

Employment Rights

Ceisteanna (63)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

63. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she is liaising with the Ministers for Justice and Equality and Agriculture, Food and the Marine on recent reports by four UN rapporteurs that permits for atypical workers, in particular for migrant fishery workers, were leaving them vulnerable to serious abuses in view of the fact the permits tie workers to individual ships and their owners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11165/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Government established an Interdepartmental Task Force, chaired by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to examine allegations of exploitative practices in the fishing sector. The 'Atypical Scheme for non-EEA Crew in the Fishing Industry' (‘Atypical Scheme’) was established with an objective to provide a way to minimise the potential for abuse of non-EEA workers by unscrupulous employers in the sector and to provide a mechanism to assist those migrant fishermen already present in the State to obtain employment in a lawful manner in 2015.

The Atypical Scheme introduced specific arrangements which ensure that such non-EEA workers are covered by the full protections afforded to all employees in the State. Consequently, only crew members who are engaged under a contract of employment by a vessel license holder are eligible. Such an approach ensures that workers have a right to a minimum regular wage and statutory conditions of employment. It also supports the various enforcement agencies’ ability to intervene effectively and address such abuses in the future.

The Atypical Scheme is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality. It would refute any allegation that the Atypical Scheme ties workers to individual ships. I am aware of several cases whereby the Department of Justice has granted non-EEA workers permission to move to another employer/vessel.

It is worth noting that the purpose of the Atypical Scheme is to implement a comprehensive regulatory environment covering all aspects of employment of non-EEA workers in the whitefish fleet. A specific feature of the Atypical Scheme is that at least 50% of the members of the crew must be nationals of any of the member States of the European Union, this ensures that the non-EEA employees have a comparator with the workplace to help safeguard their rights.

My Department’s responsibility under the Atypical Scheme is that of enforcement of employment rights. The response to the special procedure of the UN Special Rapporteurs is coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. My officials are contributing to that process and will provide a robust reply to allegations of Ireland’s failure to enforce employment rights under the Atypical Scheme.