Trade Agreements

Ceisteanna (1027)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

1027. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she raised at European Council meetings Irish concerns in relation to a proposed Mercosur deal and its adverse effects on the beef, poultry and pigmeat sectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33973/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As the Deputy will be aware, on 28 June, the EU concluded negotiations for an Association Agreement with Mercosur after nearly 20 years and 40 rounds of talks. This marks the EU’s largest trade deal to date and is four times the size of the trade agreement with Japan.

Irish exporters have been subject to trade tariffs, barriers and restrictions when exporting to Mercosur. This Agreement will see a significant reduction, or elimination, of tariffs and barriers to trade which will allow an increased flow of trade and investment between Ireland, the EU and the Mercosur region. The EU-Mercosur Agreement should make exports from Ireland more attractive, and potentially increase the demand for Irish products.

As with every Free Trade Agreement, Ireland – like all Member States – has defensive as well as offensive interests. The Agreement with Mercosur presents sectoral opportunities for Ireland in areas such as software and services in telecoms, financial services, digital content and travel, engineering products and services, life sciences, food and beverages, and education services.  On the other hand, I was always keenly aware of the potential impact that this Agreement could present to the EU’s and Ireland’s agricultural sector. In that regard, Ireland, along with a number of other Member States, asserted early on in the negotiations that these agricultural sensitivities - and beef in particular - must be fully considered in the negotiations.  Ireland has also continually highlighted the cumulative impact of agricultural market access across a range of products in relation to all EU trade agreements.

In this regard, Ireland has continually highlighted the cumulative impact of agricultural market access in relation to all EU trade agreements. Our concerns have been raised at all political levels, including by myself and my officials raising the issues with counterparts, both at Trade Council of Ministers deliberations and bilaterally with the EU Commission, and with my Member State counterparts.  For example, I wrote to the EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, as recently as 31st May this year to restate my views, which I had previously articulated at European Trade Council meetings, as well as directly with the Trade Commissioner, regarding the current challenges facing the beef sector. I had sought assurances from the Commission that the final offer on beef – an offensive demand from the Mercosur side – would ensure that:

- the tariff rate quota for beef was low,

- that phasing-in periods were designed to allow sufficient time for Irish and EU industry to adjust,

- the Commission continually monitor quota levels taking into account domestic market conditions,

- the composition of beef imports from the region would be limited in relation to fresh chilled beef, and

- robust checks would be established and monitored at points of import to the EU to ensure animal health and welfare standards have been maintained.

As I am sure you are aware, An Taoiseach also joined the leaders of France, Poland and Belgium on 17 June, in writing to Commission President Juncker expressing our concerns on the inclusion of sensitive agricultural products in the negotiations, and stating that the current quotas for such products were not be to increased.

In light of the conclusion of the negotiations, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine will now ensure that a comprehensive, independent economic and environmental sustainability assessment is carried out on the finalised EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement. This assessment will consider the impact the Agreement will have on the Irish economy and on jobs, as well as the environmental implications of the deal. It will also consider how the EU-Mercosur Agreement might mitigate/exacerbate the likely impact of Brexit for our economy. This assessment will help to inform our future actions in relation to the EU-Mercosur Agreement.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (1028)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

1028. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the estimated full-year cost if the budget for the Labour Court increased by 6% and the Workplace Relations Commission increased by 10%. [33997/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The WRC budget for 2019 is €14.95 million for pay and non-pay.  This represents an increase of circa €1 million on the WRC’s 2018 allocation. The additional funding which has already been provided in 2019 is to enable the WRC deal with the anticipated increased workload arising from An Garda Síochána gaining access to the WRC and to facilitate an improved delivery of the full range of WRC services to regional locations. 

The Labour Court budget for 2019 is €3.16 million. This represents an increase of €60,000 on the Labour Court’s 2018 allocation.  

Adequate resourcing of both the Labour Court and the WRC is a commitment in the Programme for Government and I am confident that the supports that have already been put in place for the WRC and the Labour Court are sufficient to deliver on their mandate.

While no decisions have been taken on the 2020 estimates, my Department will continue to work closely with the WRC and the Labour Court in monitoring its staffing and budgetary requirements, including anticipating future resource requirements, to ensure that they are supported and adequately resourced to fulfil their roles.

Job Creation

Ceisteanna (1029)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

1029. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she is taking to promote job creation in the mid-east region including County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34028/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The most recent CSO Labour Force Survey employment figures (Q1 2019) for the Mid-East region, which includes Co. Kildare, continue to show very good progress in employment levels.  From Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q1 2019, a total of 46,400 more people are in employment in the Mid East, and unemployment has more than halved in over the same period from 9.6 percent to 4.1 percent.

IDA Ireland continues to highlight the benefits of expanding or locating in all regions, including in Co. Kildare. There are over 8,838 people employed across 29 firms in IDA client companies located in Co. Kildare an increase of 386 between 2017 and 2018.

IDA Ireland is working hard to promote Co. Kildare to potential investors and regularly engages with key stakeholders on the ground in Co. Kildare, including with local authorities, public bodies, the education sector and companies.  

I am pleased to report that Enterprise Ireland (EI) supported companies employed 8,923 people in Co. Kildare in 2018.  Overall in the Mid-East, in 2018, 20,266 were employed in EI client companies. This is an increase of 2% compared to 2017.

The LEO in Co. Kildare is the ‘first-stop-shop’ for advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports for anyone intending to start or grow their own business in the area.  In 2018 there were 1,239 people employed in LEO client companies in Co. Kildare. LEO client companies in the county created 436 new jobs with a net increase of 285 jobs. The LEO will continue to support and promote micro-enterprises throughout the county.

While we have had great success through the Action Plan for Jobs in reducing unemployment, in the context of Brexit and other global challenges it is important that we move our focus beyond numbers of jobs created to quality and sustainable jobs. Future Jobs Ireland is our plan to meet these challenges. Launched on 10 March 2019, it includes ambitious targets and actions to drive this transformation of our economy.

Government remains committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10 and 15 per cent in each region by 2020 and to bring and maintain unemployment levels in each region to within one percentage point of the State average.

To that end, during February and March this year, I launched nine new Regional Enterprise Plans covering the period 2018 to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. These nine new Plans have been framed in the context of today’s new and emerging opportunities and challenges, including Brexit.

Shaped from the ‘bottom-up’, 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 counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, on the 7th February in Naas.  It is focused on four Strategic Objectives, specifically: developing the Screen Content Creation Sector; developing innovative co-working spaces; supporting the agri-food sector; and ensuring the availability of skills and talent. I am pleased to say that implementation has commenced in the Mid-East and all nine regions.

Each of the four Strategic Objectives includes actions in Co. Kildare as part of the Mid-East region, and the Local Authority in Co. Kildare will lead on Strategic Objective 2, that is the development of a network of innovative co-working spaces in the Mid-East Region.

The focus for Co. Kildare and the Mid-East over the period to 2020 under the Plan will be to maintain an emphasis on employment growth, aiming to out-perform 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 my Department, together with other Government Departments, has put several funding streams in place to support regional development, and I am pleased that the Mid-East has been successful in a number of these funding initiatives. These 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 my Department's €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 in Naas, involves an investment of just over €1.9 million from the REDF. In June of this year I launched a new €45 million (third Call) under the Fund.

Guided by this new Regional Enterprise Plan, Co. Kildare and the wider Mid-East region 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.

Consumer Protection

Ceisteanna (1030)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

1030. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when legislation to provide for a minimum five-year expiry date on gift vouchers will be enacted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34029/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 was initiated in Seanad Éireann on 19 December 2018 and completed Second Stage in the Seanad on 23 January 2019 and Committee and remaining stages on 31 January 2019. The Bill completed Second Stage in Dáil Éireann on 14 February 2019 and was referred to the Select Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Officials from my Department have been working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on the preparation of amendments to the Bill.  While I had hoped that the necessary amendments would be finalised in time for the Bill to be enacted before the summer recess, this did not prove possible due to a need to obtain legal advice on a number of issues relating to the Bill.  I am determined to ensure that the Bill’s Committee Stage will be taken early in the autumn session and that it will be enacted promptly after Committee Stage.

Personal Injury Claims

Ceisteanna (1031)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

1031. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if there are penalties within the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 and amending legislation for giving false, misleading or fraudulent evidence to the PIAB; if there are penalties within other legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34064/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) independently assesses claims for compensation arising from personal injuries, where both parties, claimant and respondent, consent to an assessment.  It is a matter for the parties concerned whether or not they wish to accept the assessment. PIAB does not address the issue of liability. 

Upon receipt of a completed claim, PIAB notify the respondent and provide him/her with a copy of the material that has been furnished by the claimant.  The respondent has 90 days to carry out an appropriate examination of the claim before deciding whether to proceed with the PIAB process or not.

By proceeding with the PIAB process, the respondent would have considered the claimant’s case and satisfied itself of the merits or otherwise of it.  Where liability is an issue, the respondent, generally an insurer, will refuse an assessment by PIAB of the claim so that he/she can investigate the matter.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, as amended, does not contain penalties for giving false, misleading or fraudulent information to the PIAB.

Section 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act, 2004 provides that any party to a personal injuries action who has falsely sworn an affidavit is guilty of an offence.  Section 25 creates an offence for anyone to knowingly give or adduce false or misleading material evidence in a personal injuries action. Section 26 requires a court to dismiss any personal injuries claim where the plaintiff knowingly gives or adduces evidence that is false or misleading in any material respect, unless the dismissal of the action would result in an injustice.  Section 29 sets out the penalties for persons found guilty of such acts, including fines of up to €100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.

The investigation of insurance fraud is a matter for the Garda Síochána.  Any individual or company who believes that they are the victim of a fraud should report it to the Gardaí.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (1032)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

1032. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of capital projects within the remit of her Department; the amount spent on each project to date; and the anticipated completion date. [34195/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Capital allocation to my Department in 2019 is €620 million. This represents an increase of 11.7% on our 2018 allocation of €555 million. The breakdown of the capital allocations, by subhead, is set out in the following table.

Subhead

2019 REV Allocation

CAPITAL 

(€,000)

A4 - Intertrade Ireland

 

6,695

A5 - IDA Ireland*

 

162,800*

A6 - NSAI

 

500

A7 - Enterprise Ireland

 

65,750

A8 - Local Enterprise Development

 

27,500

A9 - Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme

500

A10 - INTERREG Enterprise Development

 

3,000

A14 – Future Growth loan Scheme

 

6,000

A15 – Humanitarian Relief Scheme

 

1

B4 – Enterprise Ireland

 

122,000

B4 – Science Foundation Ireland**

 

179,550**

B4 – Tyndall Institute

 

5,500

B5 – Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions

24,300

B6 – Subscriptions to International   Organisations

23,504

B9 – Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund

20,000

Total***

647,600***

*Includes Capital Carryover from 2018 of €20.8m

**Includes Capital Carryover from 2018 of €6.8m

***Includes Capital Carryover from 2018 of €27.6 million

The Capital funding provided to my Department is mainly in the way of grants to support the multi-annual programmes of our enterprise development and innovation agencies.

The National Development Plan (NDP) identified 16 specific Business, Enterprise and Innovation Priority Investments under the “Strong Economy supported by Enterprise, Innovation and Skills” NSO, whose delivery is the prime responsibility for DBEI.

The additional €65million in capital money provided to my Department through the 2019 Estimates has allowed it to progress a number of the DBEI priority projects further in 2019. Specifically,

- the €20m funding provided to the Disruptive Technologies Fund ensured that the funding for projects approved under the first phase of the Fund could be drawn down in 2019

- the additional €10m provided to the IDA has enabled it to continue and expand its programme of providing property solutions, strategic sites and grants to deliver FDI across the regions of the country

- the €6m provided to the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which builds upon the €17m provided to the Scheme in 2018, will assist business to access the finance necessary to enable them to strategically transform/adapt to the impact of Brexit

- the additional €2.75million in capital funding provided to EI has enabled it to progress a number of regionally focussed initiatives with Institutes of Technology through a programme of Regional Innovation and Technology Clusters to support regions across the country to build enterprise capability

- the capital funding provided to EI will has also allowed it to roll out the new €175million Seed and Venture Programme which will focus on fostering a strong pipeline of high growth innovative businesses by increasing the availability of risk capital for start-up/early stage enterprises

- the Department’s increased capital funding will ensure that Ireland can continue to expand and deepen its membership of and collaborations with international research organisations such as the European Southern Observatory and the European Space Agency

- the additional capital funding also allowed the new programmes for Postgraduate Research at Masters and PhD levels to continue to be rolled out

- the additional funding being provided to SFI has enable it to refresh its Research Centres Programme thereby strengthening collaboration with enterprises across all regions of the country

- the additional funding being provided to the Tyndall Institute has enable it to continue to upgrade and expand and stay at the forefront of new technologies.

The increased Capital funding being provided to my Department in 2019 accords with the strategy outlined in the National Development Plan and the increased public capital investment set out in the Plan. This increased Capital funding is a demonstration of the Government’s commitment to deliver on the ambition of the NDP and, insofar as my Department is concerned, to ensure that we, our Agencies and Offices, have the necessary capital resources to meet the various challenges highlighted in the plan, not least in getting business Brexit ready, driving indigenous enterprise and regional growth and investing in research and innovation.

Labour Market

Ceisteanna (1033, 1040, 1042, 1043)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

1033. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken to address the rapidly worsening labour and skills shortages for dairy, horticulture, pig and poultry farms; and if imminent changes are being planned for the pilot employment permit scheme. [34219/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1040. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the last review took place of the highly skilled and ineligible lists for grant of employment permits; the regularity with which reviews are carried out; and when the next review of each list will be carried out. [34628/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1042. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to review the Employment Permits Act 2006 by which an advertisement relating to the proposed employment has to run in a national newspaper for three days as is required under regulations 31(1) and 44(1) of the Employment Permits Regulations 2017; if her attention has been drawn to the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34630/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1043. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the primary and secondary legislation regulating the work permit system. [34631/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1033, 1040, 1042 and 1043 together.

Ireland operates a managed employment permits system maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. The system is intended to act as a conduit for key skills which are required to develop enterprise in the State for the benefit of our economy, while simultaneously protecting the balance of the labour market. Only where specific skills prove difficult to source within the State and wider EEA, may an employment permit be sought by an employer to hire a non-EEA national.

There are two Employment Permit Acts and one Amendment Act on the statute books – the Employment Permit Acts 2003 and 2006, and the Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014. The relevant secondary legislation comprises the Employment Permits Regulations 2017, SI 95 of 2017, which consolidated the previous Employment Permit Regulations and amended Employment Permit Regulations enacted in 2018 and in 2019 (Employment Permits (Amendment) Regulations 2018, SI 70 of 2018, Employment Permits (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2018, SI 163 0f 2018, Employment Permits (Amendment)(No. 3) Regulations 2018, SI 318 of 2018, Employment Permits (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2018, SI 550 of 2018, Employment Permits (Amendment) Regulations 2019, SI 138 of 2019 and Employment Permits (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2019, SI 333 of 2019).

The Review of Economic Migration Policy which was completed in 2018 found that, overall, the State’s vacancy-led employment permits system provided a robust basis for the management of economic migration, but that the current legislation imposed a degree of inflexibility on the operation of the system. The review made a range of recommendations including recommending changes to the Employment Permits Acts 2003-2014.

Work has begun on consolidating the existing legislative framework and on identifying the changes required to implement the legislative recommendations in the review. This is a priority for me and I have asked my officials to complete this work as soon as possible, so that drafting of the new Employment Permits Bill can commence. It would be my intention to publish the revised Employment Permit Bill later this year.

The Employment Permits legislation prescribes a range of criteria when considering an application for an employment permit including a Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT) with the provision that employers must advertise in National Newspapers. The recent Review recommended modernization of the LMNT process by broadening the range of advertising methods to reflect modern advertising tools. This will be addressed in the new Employment Permit legislation.

The occupation lists for employment permit purposes are subject to twice-yearly review which examines labour market conditions at occupation level. The process involves in-depth examination of the research and labour market intelligence undertaken by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (Solas), the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs, and the National Skills Council, review of relevant Reports, education outputs and initiatives, sectoral upskilling and training initiatives and any known contextual factors. The observations and input of relevant Government Departments are also incorporated in addition to a public consultation process. Submissions received are also considered by the Economic Migration Policy Interdepartmental Group chaired by my Department.

In order to have the status of an occupation changed to make it eligible for an employment permit, there needs to be a clear demonstration that recruitment difficulties are solely due to shortages of appropriate personnel across the EEA and not to other factors such as salary and/or employment conditions. Organisations in the sector need to provide the necessary data to substantiate their claims.

The most recent review of the occupation lists concluded in April 2019 with changes made to lists to in respect of occupations in the construction, transport and sports sectors. The mid year review is now underway, with the call for submissions to the review closing on 12th July. Some 30 submissions have been received. It is expected that this review will be finalised before the end of September.

In May 2018, following a comprehensive review of the data and evidence available, and consideration of a detailed business case by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as the lead policy Department for the sector, a pilot quota-based scheme was introduced to remove the occupations of horticulture worker, meat processing operative and dairy farm assistant from the ineligible occupations list. The quotas introduced were 500, 1500 and 50 respectively. The scheme allows workers from non-EEA countries to access employment opportunities here. The scheme has been very successful; to date some 203 employment permits for horticulture workers have been granted while the quota for dairy farm assistants has been exhausted. .

Consideration is been given to a detailed evidenced based business case submitted by the dairy sector requesting an extension to the pilot scheme in which they outlined the labour shortages and recruitment challenges in the industry. I expect to be in a position to make an decision very shortly on this request.

Submissions in relation to the Pig and Poultry sectors were received as part of the current review of occupations lists, on 12th July, and are being considered as part of that process.

Trade Union Recognition

Ceisteanna (1034)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

1034. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the step-by-step process for a representative organisation to become an officially recognised social partner here. [34291/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I interpret the Deputy’s question as referring to the process for a representative organisation to become an officially recognised trade union. In this regard the right of workers to form associations and the right to join a trade union are enshrined in Article 40 of the Irish Constitution.

Section 13 of the Trade Union Act 1871 provides that when Trade Unions are applying for registration with the Registrar of Friendly Societies they must provide a copy of their rules. Furthermore, Section 12 of the Trade Union Act 1941 provides that an authorised trade union must include in its rules provisions specifying the conditions of entry into and cessation of membership of such trade union.

Therefore, issues relating to trade union membership are matters for individual trade unions and I as Minister have no function in such matters. Furthermore, I have no plans to introduce or amend legislation in this regard.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (1035)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

1035. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the way in which online consumers will be affected in the context of a no-deal Brexit; her plans or strategies devised to inform consumers of potential changes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34466/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Consumers buying online from a business in the EU have strong consumer rights under a range of EU consumer protection legislation.  Consumers encountering difficulties have recourse to the European Consumer Centre (ECC) network and the Consumer Protection Co-operation (CPC) network, which provides a basis for national enforcement authorities to co-operate and share information in relation to cross border breaches of consumer law.  Once the UK leaves the EU, consumers will no longer automatically have these rights in relation to purchases made from UK traders and the UK will no longer be able to participate in the ECC and CPC networks.  Consumers can, however, seek to resolve difficulties directly with UK traders and can also initiate civil legal action through the Courts.

The Government’s Brexit Contingency Action Plan, published on the 9th July 2019, contains information for consumers in relation to online retail after Brexit.  The Action Plan highlights the fact that consumers may not be protected by the Consumer Rights Directive and other EU consumer protection legislation if they purchase products online from UK retailers.  In addition, it advises consumers that such transactions may be affected post Brexit due to additional import charges, duty and VAT, along with the costs in relation to returns for retailers.

For more detailed information, the Brexit Contingency Action Plan directs consumers to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) website where they can gather further information in relation to Brexit, including the changes to consumer rights for those purchasing from the UK including a Q&A regarding the impact Brexit could have on rights when shopping online.  In relation to online shopping, the CCPC highlights the importance of consumers knowing where a trader is located and advises consumers to pay particular attention to the terms and conditions on websites based outside the EU, including provisions in relation to return of purchases and order cancellation. The CCPC’s website also has information on any additional taxes and charges consumers may need to pay when ordering online from a country outside the EU.  For example, Value Added Tax (VAT) is payable if the value of the items plus shipping is €22 or more and import charges such as customs or excise duties are payable on items valued at €150 or more that are purchased from outside the EU.

The CCPC also launched a public information campaign in March, in the run up to the original Article 50 deadline of March 31st.  As part of the Government's Brexit communications strategy, the CCPC is currently planning consumer market research with a view to informing a further awareness campaign this Autumn on the potential changes to consumer rights as a result of Brexit.  The CCPC continues to closely monitor the developing Brexit situation and will update the information it provides to consumers, as required.

Departmental Communications

Ceisteanna (1036)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

1036. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the expenditure by her Department on social media advertising and promotional material within the past year in tabular form. [34606/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My Department has not had any expenditure on social media advertising or promotional material within the past year.

Consumer Protection

Questions Nos. 1038 and 1039 answered with Question No. 1025.

Question No. 1040 answered with Question No. 1033.

Question No. 1041 answered with Question No. 1025.

Questions Nos. 1042 and 1043 answered with Question No. 1033.

Ceisteanna (1037)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1037. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the consumer rights Bill in view of the fact that the heads of the Bill were published in 2015; and the sections that will be covered in forthcoming EU legislation that will be transposed here. [34625/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill which issued for public consultation in May 2015 proposed a comprehensive consolidation and modernisation of the legislative provisions on consumer contracts for the sale of goods, the supply of services, the supply of digital content and on unfair terms in consumer contracts.  The subsequent progress of the Scheme was delayed by the publication later in 2015 of two European Union legislative proposals on consumer contracts for the supply of digital content and the sale of goods.  As these proposals overlapped substantially with two of the four main parts of the Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill, the view was taken that there was little point in introducing legislation in the Oireachtas if large parts of that legislation would have to be repealed or substantially amended within a relatively short time of its enactment.  Though progress on the EU legislative proposals was slower than originally anticipated, Directive (EU) 2019/770 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services and Directive (EU) 2019/771 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the sale of goods have both now been adopted and were published in the Official Journal on 22 May 2019.  Member States are required to adopt legislation to give effect to the Directives by 1 July 2021 and to apply that legislation from 1 January 2022.

The provisions of the two Directives will be incorporated in the Parts of the Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill dealing with contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services and the sale of goods respectively.  The amendments to Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts which have been agreed by the European Council and Parliament and are due to be formally adopted in the near future will similarly be given effect in the Part of the Scheme dealing with unfair contract terms.  I propose also to incorporate in the Scheme the provisions that give effect to Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer information, cancellation and other rights and the amendments to that Directive agreed by the European Council and Parliament. While the necessary changes to the Scheme of the Bill will require considerable work, that work has commenced and I hope to be able to issue a revised Scheme for consultation later this year.

Questions Nos. 1038 and 1039 answered with Question No. 1025.
Question No. 1040 answered with Question No. 1033.
Question No. 1041 answered with Question No. 1025.
Questions Nos. 1042 and 1043 answered with Question No. 1033.

Small and Medium Enterprises

Ceisteanna (1044)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1044. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the timeline for the completion and publication of the review of SME and entrepreneurship issues and policies here by the OECD and her Department. [34632/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The OECD Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland is a comprehensive and extensive exercise, which has been ongoing since March 2018, and has involved broad and thorough consultation and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, including across the business and SME community, academia, representative organisations, and Government Departments and agencies.

The process has also included strong political engagement at the highest level. As recently as Friday 12 July last, my Department hosted a significant SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy Conference, which was addressed by An Taoiseach, by myself, and by Minister Pat Breen. The conference, which also served as the launch event for Future Jobs Ireland Pillar 2 on SME Productivity, included a detailed presentation by the OECD on the emerging priority recommendations from the Review process. This has facilitated another welcome opportunity for stakeholders to engage with the OECD's work. In addition, my colleague, Minister Pat Breen, visited the OECD in April this year to engage with the Committee which is working on the progress of the Review.

I am very happy to say that this important project is now at an advanced stage, and that the Review will be completed this autumn. I anticipate that the OECD's Report, and the associated Roadmap (which will focus on the priority recommendations), will be published by November.

EU Legislation

Ceisteanna (1045)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1045. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of each of the recent EU consumer rights directives and regulations that will have to be transposed here; the status of the preparations of her Department in this regard; and the timeframe for the transpositions of such directives and regulations. [34633/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Directive (EU) 2019/770 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services and Directive (EU) 2019/771 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the sale of goods were published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 22 May 2019.  Legislative measures to give effect to the Directives will have to be enacted by 1 July 2021 and to be applied from 1 January 2022.  In March 2019, the European Council and Parliament reached agreement on the proposal for a Directive amending Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts, Directive 98/6/EC on the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers, Directive 2005/29/EC on unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices and Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights.  This proposal is expected to be formally adopted in the near future and is likely to require transposition before the end of 2021.

I propose to give effect to all of these Directives in an amended version of the Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill issued for public consultation by my Department in May 2015.  Work on their transposition has commenced and I hope to be able to issue a revised Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill for consultation later this year.

Consumer Protection

Ceisteanna (1046)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1046. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the consumer legislation in place domestically that regulates online shopping and contracts for goods and services purchased online; and if EU legislation is forthcoming in this area. [34634/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The principal domestic legislation that specifically regulates online contracts for goods and services is the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 484/2013) which give effect to Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights.  The Regulations set out detailed information requirements with which traders must comply before consumers are bound by online contracts and, subject to certain specified exceptions, give consumers the right to cancel such contracts within fourteen days of the day on which the consumer acquires physical possession of the goods in the case of sales contracts or within fourteen days of the conclusion of the contract in the case of services contracts.  Additional protections for online contracts are provided by Regulation (EU) 2017/1128 on cross-border portability of online content services and Regulation (EU) 2018/302 on unjustified geo-blocking. Online contracts are subject also to the provisions of general consumer protection legislation, in particular the Sale of Goods Act 1893, the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 (S.I. No. 27/1995), the European Communities (Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 11/2003) and the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 on unfair, misleading and aggressive commercial practices.  Legislation for which the Minister for Finance has responsibility regulates the distance marketing of consumer financial services.   

Directive (EU) 2019/770 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services which was adopted in April 2019 and which must be transposed by July 2021 contains new protections for consumers in relation to the supply of digital content and digital services and their conformity with the contract and provides remedies for failure to supply and lack of conformity. Directive (EU) 2019/771 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the sale of goods which was adopted in April 2019 and which must be transposed by July 2021 amends and, in some respects, strengthens current consumer rights and remedies in sales contracts, including for goods purchased online. In March 2019, the European Council and Parliament agreed amendments to Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer protections that provide for additional consumer information requirements for contracts concluded on online marketplaces. Amendments were also agreed to Directive 2005/29/EC on unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices which provide for greater transparency of the results to online search queries by consumers and of reviews of goods or services on online and other sales channels. These amendments are expected to be formally adopted in the near future and are likely to have to be transposed before the end of 2021.

Consumer Protection

Ceisteanna (1047)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1047. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the consumer legislation in place domestically that regulates digital trading; the powers there are to protect consumers; and if EU legislation is forthcoming in this area. [34635/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As digital trading is a relatively new phenomenon, it has until recently been regulated primarily by general consumer protection legislation rather than by provisions specific to digital contracts and transactions.  Where applicable, digital contracts and transactions are subject to the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act 1893, the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 (S.I. No. 27/1995), the European Communities (Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 11/2003), the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 484/2013).

Directive (EU) 2019/770 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services sets out new rights and remedies for consumers in respects of contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services  and is the first major piece of EU consumer protection that deals specifically with digital contracts.  Directive (EU) 2019/771 on certain aspects concerning contracts for the sale of goods which amends and, in some respects, strengthens existing EU legislation on consumer contracts for the sale of goods includes a number of provisions specific to goods with digital elements. Both Directives must be transposed by 1 July 2021 and applied by 1 January 2022.  Other recently adopted EU legislation relevant to digital transactions are Regulation (EU) 2017/1128 on cross-border portability of online content services and Regulation (EU) 2018/302 on unjustified geo-blocking.  While these legislative measures apply solely or mainly to transactions involving consumers, the European Union has also recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2019/1150 on fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services and this will apply from 12 July 2020.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (1048)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1048. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the latest InterTradeIreland quarterly all-island business monitor and the level of preparedness and planning being undertaken by businesses for all Brexit scenarios. [34636/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

InterTradeIreland’s (ITI) quarterly Business Monitor Survey is the largest and most comprehensive business survey of business owners’ views in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Business Monitor tracks all-island economic indicators such as sales, employment, business outlook and engagement in cross-border trade. More recently, ITI has been engaging directly with business owners through a new Brexit section in the Business Monitor which provides valuable insights into the impact of Brexit, the concerns businesses have and the level of planning that is taking place in preparation for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The most recent Monitor, released in May, highlights the impact the uncertainty caused by Brexit is having on small and medium businesses, and particularly those engaged in cross-border trade. This research has helped ITI and my Department to better understand the potential impact of Brexit on firms across the island, especially those involved in North-South commerce, and informs our Brexit related work.

The findings of the survey underline as well the importance of the work that ITI and the enterprise agencies are doing to support businesses as they prepare for Brexit.  This has been a key priority for my Department and the agencies since the decision by the UK to leave the European Union in June 2016.

Given its remit to develop cross-border trade, ITI is especially well-positioned to help SMEs prepare for the particular North-South challenges associated with Brexit.  ITI’s Brexit Advisory Service provides a focal point for those firms working to prepare for any changes in the cross-border trading relationship that may arise. As part of the service, ITI organises awareness events focused on improving knowledge of customs processes and procedures and identifying actions that can be taken in areas such as logistics and supply chain management. ITI also offers a "Start to Plan" voucher, worth up to €2,250 each, which helps companies to get professional advice on planning and preparation for Brexit. To date, over 1600 firms have availed of this voucher scheme.  

I provided an additional €1m in funding to ITI this year, which has enabled the body to expand its range of Brexit supports in 2019. The new initiatives include a ‘‘Start to Act” voucher, valued at €5,625, aimed at companies who wish to implement their Brexit plan.

More broadly, over the last two years my Department and its agencies have worked to raise awareness of the key Brexit challenges facing businesses which include supply chain, tariffs, customs, regulatory standards, working capital and movement of labour, goods and services; to build business preparedness levels; and to put a comprehensive set of supports in place for businesses. We have been active in the promotion of schemes and supports through participation in a range of campaigns, including the whole-of-Government 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' public information campaign. This campaign features workshop events throughout the country, aimed primarily at business and people most impacted by Brexit. In addition to these events, Enterprise Ireland has also rolled out a series of Brexit Advisory Clinics to help businesses across the country to better understand their exposure to Brexit and the mitigating actions available to them. This month I attended events in Cavan & Monaghan which focused on the practical steps businesses need to take now. Another event will take place in Donegal on 25 July, and I would encourage businesses to attend.

While there is still much uncertainty surrounding Brexit, my Department and its agencies are working to provide extensive supports to ensure that businesses across the country are as prepared as possible for the UK’s exit from the EU.

I include a table reflecting uptake by firms of various Brexit Government-provided supports.  

Scheme     

Uptake (12 July 2019)     

Brexit Loan Scheme

678 applications received, 608 approved by SBCI, 155 Loans progressed to sanction at bank   level to a value of €34.16 million.

(Uptake as of 12 July)

Enterprise Ireland Brexit Scorecard - online platform for Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit

5,385 Brexit Scorecards have been completed. 1119 LEO clients have completed the   scorecard.

Enterprise Ireland Be   Prepared Grant

202 Be Prepared Grants have been approved

Enterprise Ireland Market Discovery Fund - A support to EI clients to research new markets

177 companies have been approved under this initiative[1]

Enterprise Ireland Prepare to Export Scorecard   

3,954 Prepare to Export Scorecards have been completed

Enterprise Ireland Customs Insights Online Course

1,279 Customs Insights Course   participants

Enterprise Ireland Agile Innovation Fund - Gives rapid fast-track access to innovation funding

55 Agile Innovation projects have been approved

Enterprise Ireland Brexit Advisory Clinics

16 Brexit Advisory Clinics have been run with over 1,200 in attendance

Enterprise Ireland Brexit   “Act On Programme” – A support funding the engagement of   a consultant to devise report with recommendations to help clients address weaknesses and improve resilience

270 “Act on” Plans have been completed

Enterprise Ireland Strategic Consultancy Grant – A grant to assist EI clients to hire a strategic consultant for a set period

1,073 Strategic Consultancy Grants have been approved

Local Enterprise Office Technical Assistance Grant for Micro Export - an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market   opportunities

631 clients were approved assistance under the Technical Assistance Grant[2]

Local Enterprise Office LEAN for Micro - The LEO Lean4Micro offer was developed in collaboration between the EI Lean department and the LEOs to tailor the EI Lean offer for LEO micro enterprise clients

356 LEO clients have participated in the programme

Local Enterprise Office Mentoring

673 mentoring participants solely focused on Brexit

Local Enterprise Office Brexit Seminars/Events

4,856 Participants at the Brexit Information events  

Customs Training Participants

531 Participants attended Customs Training

InterTradeIreland Funding

Ceisteanna (1049)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1049. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the annual current and capital Exchequer funding of InterTradeIreland in each of the years 2016 to 2019. [34638/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

InterTradeIreland (ITI) is co-funded by my Department and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.  The funding provided to ITI by my Department since 2016 is set out in the following table.

I provided an additional €1 million in funding for ITI in 2019. This funding has enabled the body to expand its key Brexit services and to provide further support to companies seeking its assistance in preparing for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

Year

Current €m

Capital €m

Total €m

2019

2.45

6.7

9.15

2018

2.43

5.7

8.13

2017

2.27

5.7

7.96

2016

2.03

5.53

7.56

North-South Implementation Bodies

Ceisteanna (1050)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1050. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to strengthen the all-island economy; and the strategies under way in this regard. [34639/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland are closely connected. The benefits of free and open trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland have become readily apparent and we have been working – particularly through the services offered by InterTradeIreland (ITI) – to promote trade and business on an all-island and cross-border basis.

ITI is one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement. The body is jointly funded by my Department and its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Department for the Economy. ITI’s objective is to support businesses, through innovation and trade initiatives, to take advantage of North South co-operative opportunities, driving competitiveness, jobs and growth. ITI helps small businesses explore new cross-border markets, develop new products and services and become investor ready.

ITI produces a comprehensive quarterly all-island survey, the All-Island Business Monitor, which tracks all-island economic indicators such as sales, employment, business outlook and engagement in cross-border trade. The latest Business Monitor (Quarter 1, 2019) highlights the impact the uncertainty caused by Brexit is having on small and medium businesses, and particularly those engaged in cross-border trade. This research has helped us to better understand the potential impact of Brexit on firms across the island, especially those involved in cross-border trade, and informs our Brexit related work.

ITI has a key role to play in protecting North-South trade in the context of Brexit, as the body is uniquely well-positioned when it comes to understanding the needs of businesses on both sides of the border. I increased ITI’s capital allocation by 18%/1m this year, to enable it to provide a range of initiatives aimed at assisting SMEs to prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

My Department also provided funding for a series of research reports, undertaken by the ESRI on behalf of ITI, which assessed the potential implications of Brexit for cross-border trade. This research has helped us to better understand the implications of Brexit on existing trade and to identify the sectors and business types which are most likely to need support in preparation for the changing trading relationship ahead of us.

ITI marks its 20th anniversary of promoting cross-border trade this year. During that time, the body has assisted over 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and has generated more than £1bn/€1.2 billion in business development value through its programmes and initiatives. Cross border trade now stands at an all-time high and we will continue to support its growth, notwithstanding the challenges presented by Brexit, in the years ahead.

North-South Implementation Bodies

Ceisteanna (1051)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1051. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason there is no reference to the important cross-Border agency, InterTradeIreland, in the policy strategy document Future Jobs Ireland 2019 - Preparing Now for Tomorrow’s Economy; if she received a submission from the agency; and the actions taken to include suggestions from same in the Future Jobs Ireland 2019 strategy. [34640/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Future Jobs Ireland 2019 sets out 26 medium-term Ambitions under five Pillars, each backed up by a set of specific Deliverables representing crucial steps toward achieving these Ambitions. These Deliverables are built on an extensive consultation process, including the national Future Jobs Summit. The Deliverables for 2019 represent the first stage of Future Jobs Ireland which will be built on in subsequent annual editions.

The Future Jobs Summit was held on 22nd November last. The purpose of the Summit was to bring together key stakeholders from academia, Government, industry, representative bodies, semi-State bodies and other interested parties with a view to exchanging ideas around the key themes in Future Jobs Ireland.  The Summit saw over 200 participants engage directly with me and some of my Ministerial colleagues to help shape the Ambitions and Deliverables in Future Jobs Ireland 2019. Representatives from InterTradeIreland were invited to attend this Summit and contribute to these discussions.   

Representatives from InterTradeIreland were also invited to, and attended, a Stakeholder Seminar shortly after the launch of Future Jobs Ireland 2019. This Seminar included an open discussion session providing attendees the opportunity to voice their initial thoughts on Future Jobs Ireland.

As we begin the development of the next iteration, Future Jobs Ireland 2020, my officials have met with InterTradeIreland as part of a Roundtable meetings with our enterprise agencies.  My officials are currently in the process of arranging a bilateral with InterTradeIreland to hear their suggestions for potential inclusion in Future Jobs Ireland 2020, or other future editions, as we consider how we can build upon cross-border collaboration to support this important policy framework.

InterTradeIreland, who is jointly funded by my Department and its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Department for the Economy, aims to support businesses, through innovation and trade initiatives, to take advantage of North South co-operative opportunities, driving competitiveness, jobs and growth.  InterTradeIreland helps small businesses explore new cross-border markets, develop new products, processes and services and become investor ready.  The body provides practical cross-border business funding, business intelligence and supports to SMEs. InterTradeIreland also has a key role to play in protecting North-South trade in the context of Brexit, as the body is uniquely well-positioned when it comes to understanding the needs of businesses on both sides of the border. 

I fully recognise the important work that InterTradeIreland do in terms of supporting small businesses, particularly in the border region and it was for this very reason that I increased the ITI budget by 18% / €1m for 2019.