Work Permits Applications

Ceisteanna (121)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

121. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if an application for a work permit will be considered in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40384/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

There does not appear to be a current employment permit application for the named person (details supplied). 

An application for an employment permit by the named person will be considered should such an application be made, subject to the application fulfilling all relevant criteria. 

In order to apply for an employment permit a non-EEA national must have secured a job offer for an eligible occupation from an Irish registered employer.

Details on how to apply for an employment permit are available on my Department's website at the following link

https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/.

In order to assist with the application process, the Department has produced a suite of information including various checklist documents, a ‘User Guide' to our online application system and a comprehensive FAQ Document which answers the most common queries received regarding employment permits.  All this information can be found in the Employment Permit section of my Department’s website at www.dbei.gov.ie.

Brexit Data

Ceisteanna (122)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

122. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applicants and participants in Brexit schemes and supports provided by her Department or agencies under the remit of her Department up to the end of quarter three 2019 in tabular form; and the amount allocated and expended to each such scheme in each year since being established. [40439/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As the nature of the UK's departure from the EU still remains to be determined, Brexit continues to represent a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland, one which cannot be underestimated. That is why my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses around the country are prepared for Brexit. These measures aim to assist businesses in identifying and managing key risk areas and develop practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

My Department’s total exchequer allocation increased by 9.1% year on year, up from €871m to €950.2m. This is made up of a record €620m in capital and €330.2m in current funding, which includes an increase of €65m in capital – up 11.7% on last year’s allocation of €555m; and, an increase of €14.2m in current – almost 4.5% more than our 2018 allocation of €316m.

I allocated an additional €5m to the network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEO's), €3m to Enterprise Ireland, €2m to IDA Ireland and €1m to InterTradeIreland to help businesses prepare for Brexit, together with funding for the longer-term Future Growth Loan Scheme and the IDA Regional Property Programme. I also provided extra staff for the regulatory bodies of my Department to ensure they are properly resourced to address the additional demands that Brexit will create.

The LEOs are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. The LEOs have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit.

In addition, 1,017 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. Technical Assistance Grants for Micro Export are offered as an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities. 729 LEO clients have been approved for the Technical Assistance Grant.

The Local Enterprise Office interactive one day Prepare Your Business for Customs workshop helps businesses understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to succeed in a post Brexit environment. To date, 917 participants have attended this customs training.

InterTrade Ireland also plays a major role as part of Ireland’s Brexit response and offers Brexit-related advisory services to eligible businesses. So far this year, more than 4,500 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service.

ITI offers a Brexit Planning Voucher and Brexit Implementation Voucher schemes, which enables businesses to get professional advice on how best to plan, prepare and implement for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. These supports help businesses obtain advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, regulatory and customs issues and movement of labour, goods and services.

ITI Brexit Start to Plan vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. Over 1,800 businesses have applied for a Brexit Start to Plan voucher, of which over 1,600 have been approved. ITI new Brexit Implementation Voucher provides financial support up to £5,000/€5,625 (inclusive of VAT), with InterTradeIreland paying 50%. This will allow businesses to implement critical changes making them better prepared to deal with a new trading relationship.

In August, ITI launched a new advertising campaign and a new online resource to encourage and assist firms in preparing for Brexit. The online “Bitesize Brexit” resource is a one-stop-shop for cross-border traders, presenting information in easily digestible segments and includes specific actions businesses should take in preparing for Brexit.

The Brexit Loan Scheme was launched in March of 2018. The Scheme, using a combination of Irish Exchequer and EU guarantees, leveraged up to €300 million of lending at a maximum interest rate 4% at a cost to the Exchequer of €23 million - €14 million provided by my Department and €9 million provided by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short-term working capital, 1 to 3 years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them to innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. Businesses can confirm their eligibility with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and, if deemed eligible, can apply to one of the participating finance providers for a loan under the scheme.

As at 27 September, there have been 816 applications for eligibility under the scheme, of which 738 have been approved to date by SBCI. Some 194 of those applications have progressed to sanction at bank value, to a total value of €43.52 million.

Of the approved applications to date, 153 were reapplications as eligibility expires after four months.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme launched in March of this year. The scheme provides a longer-term facility, 8 to 10 years, of up to €300m to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit environment by business at competitive rates. This scheme is jointly funded by my Department (€37.2 million) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (€24.8 million) at a total cost to the Exchequer of €62 million.

This scheme is available to eligible businesses in Ireland and the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors to support strategic long-term investment. The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, the scheme operator, opened for eligibility applications on 17 April and up to 27 September it received 1,353 eligibility applications and issued 1,283 eligibility letters.

Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-asses their exposure to Brexit and a “Be Prepared Grant” to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit. It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK.

Over 6,500 business have used Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard to date and 85% of EI client firms have a plan in place, while 216 applications for the Be Prepared grant have been approved. Some 288 EI clients have received funding under its “Act On” programme, which supports the engagement of a consultant to help clients identify weaknesses and improve resilience. EI has also hosted 16 Brexit Advisory Clinics.

EI also launched a Customs Insights Online course at the beginning of the year. This is a new online training support to help all businesses understand how customs work including the documentation and process required to operate and succeed post Brexit. The Customs Insights course explains in clear and simple terms the main customs rules and included the key actions companies can take to prepare for customs after Brexit and the options from Revenue that are available to make the customs process more efficient. This will be available for any company to use whether they are importers or exporters and also whether they are agency clients or not. There have been over 1,700 Customs Insights Course participants.

Enterprise Ireland also recently revealed 12 ‘Brexit Essential’ questions aimed at helping exporting businesses further prepare and take action ahead of the UK’s impending withdrawal from the EU. The Brexit Essentials campaign highlights the key questions and documentation that businesses need to address in order to trade successfully with the UK post 31 October.

The Government, in association with key industry partners, also launched a new support measure to help customs agents, intermediaries and affected Irish businesses develop the capacity to deal with the additional customs requirements due to the UK’s departure from the EU. The new initiative is called Clear Customs, and it comprises of a free customs training programme provided through Skillnet and a financial support payment from Enterprise Ireland to assist with the costs of recruiting and assigning staff to customs roles in addition to necessary customs IT requirements. To the 27 of September, 168 applications have been made to access financial support through the scheme.

While I have seen a very positive uptake of the supports available, I am conscious that the delays to Brexit may have led businesses to defer their immediate planning. However, the UK’s exit from the EU will mean changes for Irish businesses. I want businesses to know that my Department and its agencies are here to help. The existing supports, schemes and advice are in place to ensure that businesses are prepared for any Brexit scenario.

The first table sets out the uptake of the different Brexit-related supports available through the Department and its agencies as at 27 September 2019.

The second table sets out the respective exchequer increases in allocations to ITI, EI, IDA and the LEOs between 2018 and 2019 and the cost/expenditure of the supports available. Whilst these increases are not all due to Brexit, they are mainly provided to assist the enterprise agencies in their responses to the challenges posed by Brexit.

Brexit preparedness supports - uptake of available schemes 27.09.2019

Brexit preparedness supports - expenditure - 26.07.2019

State Aid

Ceisteanna (123)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

123. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will request, at European level, changes to State aid thresholds to protect enterprises, exporting companies and related jobs here from a hard Brexit WTO scenario in view of the fact that a no-deal Brexit remains a possibility and the UK may assume third country status. [40440/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

While the nature of the UK's exit from the EU still remains to be resolved, Brexit continues to represent a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland. In response my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that all business sectors around the country are prepared for Brexit and jobs are protected.

My Department has been working closely with the EU Commission and DG Competition since November 2017 through the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid. The Group comprises senior representatives from DG Comp, my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Enterprise Ireland.  Its objective has been to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules. 

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 2018 in Brexit impacted businesses.  Options available through the Agriculture Guidelines are also being developed to support large food companies.

Earlier this year I met with Commissioner Vestager.  The focus of the meeting centred around the severe challenges that Irish businesses will face when the UK leaves the EU 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 implication become known.  The Commissioner emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

Should further issues arise that require an approach that does not fit within the existing State aid rules, this will be raised as part of these Working Group discussions.

Brexit Staff

Ceisteanna (124)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

124. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of Brexit staff hired by her Department and agencies under the remit of her Department in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019 further to the announcement of additional staff recruitment as a Brexit measure in budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019; and the number of new staff hires and replacement staff, respectively in tabular form. [40441/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

With regard to my own Department, a dedicated Brexit Unit was established in 2016 and is led at Assistant Secretary level within the EU Affairs, Trade Policy and Licensing Division, to coordinate and represent the Departmental and Agencies response to Brexit.  The Unit also leads on engagement with a broad range of stakeholders to inform and validate our response to Brexit.  

When the unit was set up in 2016 it consisted of three staff, one Principal Officer, one Assistant Principal Officer and one Higher Executive Officer. Additional staffing of two Assistant Principal Officers, one Higher Executive Officer and one Clerical Officer were appointed in 2017. The Department also appointed a further AO to the Unit in early 2019 but this position has recently become vacant.

Also within this Division, two officials (Assistant Principal Officer and Administrative Officer) working in the Trade Policy Unit are assigned to Brexit related trade matters as part of their portfolios.

In the Division with responsibility for Indigenous Enterprise, two posts were approved (Assistant Principal Officer and Administrative Officer) to work solely on Brexit mitigation measures to support business impacted by Brexit. A team of three was approved to establish a new Getting Business Brexit Ready Unit. This unit was comprised of one Assistant Principal Officer, one Administrative Officer and one Executive Officer. All three appointments were made in January 2019. A decision was later made to subsume the AP role into our Communications team to promote awareness of DBEI Brexit supports to all businesses in Ireland.

Staff expertise is also being drawn from across a number of different policy areas of the Department in shaping our Brexit response and a number of areas that are most impacted have been assigned additional staff including but not exclusively to deal with Brexit. We are continually prioritising the Brexit challenges and will actively keep the staffing requirements under review through workforce planning.

I have set out in the table below the number of staff appointed to Brexit related positions in my Department and in the Agencies under its remit during 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019.

In relation to the second part of the Deputy’s question, it is not possible to provide the numbers for all new hires and replacement staff for my Department and all of its Agencies in the time allotted. However, the information is listed in the second following table for those who had this information available. I have asked the Agencies to provide the remaining information and will make this available to the Deputy when returns have been compiled. I have supplied the total headcount for my Department and each of the relevant agencies in the table below for further information.

Brexit related positions

New Hires and Replacement Staff

Trade Agreements

Ceisteanna (125)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

125. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the recent issues discussed at the EU Competitiveness Council meeting in Brussels; the decisions regarding recent trade agreements agreed or being negotiated; and the status of discussions on trade with the United States of America and developments regarding proposed duties on EU imports. [40442/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I recently attended the Informal meeting of Trade Ministers which took place on 1st October 2019 in Brussels.  Ministers discussed the critical situation in the WTO, and EU collective efforts regarding its reform and on-going negotiations.  Ministers also discussed related trade matters involving the United States.  In addition, the EU Commission updated Trade Ministers on the preparation of the third annual report on the implementation of EU trade agreements.  Finally, Ministers discussed the next steps in the EU agreement with Mercosur.

In relation to the Deputy’s request for an update on recent EU trade agreements, the latest up-to-date information on specific FTAs is as follows:

EU-Canada (CETA) – The 21st September marked the second anniversary of the Agreement’s ‘provisional application’, under which EU/Irish companies gain access to the removal of customs duties and substantially improved access to the Canadian public procurement market.  CETA also opened up new sectors of the Canadian services market, reduced regulatory barriers and provided more transparent rules for market access.  Ireland already has a strong trading relationship with Canada which is reflected in the €3.2 billion worth of annual trade between both countries.  The value of Irish exports to Canada is worth €2.4 billion whilst the value of Irish imports from Canada is worth €780 million. 

EU-Japan - The EU-Japan Economic Partnership (EPA) was signed in Tokyo on the 17th July 2018.  The European Parliament and Japan's National Diet voted to ratify the EPA in December 2018 and the Agreement entered into force on 1st February 2019.  The Agreement provides for tariff reductions to be delivered on a phased basis over a period of up to 15 years.  It will open up new opportunities for Irish exporters and companies across a wide range of sectors, including the agri-food sector, which will see particular benefits with new access for dairy products and beef.  It will also facilitate greater ease in doing business in the financial services, med-tech, and green energy sectors and across the full range of trade interests that Ireland and Japan share.  The Agreement also creates opportunities for Irish-based manufacturers in our pharmaceutical sector through an expansion of existing Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on Good Manufacturing Practice to cover new pharmaceutical products.

EU-Singapore - The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed by the EU and Singapore at the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit on 19th October 2018.  The FTA was ratified by the European Parliament on 12th February 2019.  The aim is for the FTA to enter into force during 2019.  The deal goes beyond many previously negotiated free trade accords in committing to open up public procurement, an area where the EU and Ireland has many leading suppliers, and agreeing on technical standards in areas such as motor vehicles, electronics and green technologies.  Irish-owned SMEs are developing strong trade links with Singapore and this trade is growing steadily.  

EU-Vietnam – An FTA was successfully negotiated with Vietnam in 2015.  The European Commission and Vietnam signed the deal on the 30th June 2019 in Hanoi.  The hope is that it will be ratified by the European Parliament during 2019.  The EU-Vietnam FTA will eliminate over 99% of tariffs and will unlock a market with huge potential for Irish exports.  The FTA will also create opportunities by addressing other barriers to trade and will address trade-related areas such as public procurement, regulatory issues, competition, services, investment, intellectual property rights, and sustainable development.  The Agreement creates opportunities for the Irish Agri-food sector, in particular. Ireland's food exports to Vietnam have grown considerably in recent years and the FTA will support further growth.  There are opportunities for Ireland to grow exports in dairy products, pork, seafood, and alcoholic beverages by taking advantage of reduced tariffs under the FTA.  Currently tariffs on EU exports of spirits to Vietnam are particularly high at 48% and will be eliminated under the FTA. The elimination of tariffs of 15% on frozen pork products is also significant for Irish producers.

EU-Mexico - On the 21st April 2018, the EU and Mexico announced that they had reached Political Agreement in their negotiations to modernise the existing EU-Mexico Global Agreement to broaden its scope to include regulatory cooperation, more trade in agriculture and food, common phytosanitary standards (food safety and animal and plant health), sustainable development, rules of origin, public procurement.  The EU and Mexico hope to finalise the full legal text before the end of the year.  The final text will be reviewed by lawyers from both parties, a process called “legal scrubbing”.  After this, the agreement will be submitted for the approval of EU Member States and of the European Parliament before signature.  The Agreement will provide a platform to increase Irish exports to Mexico, this will be significant for Ireland’s important Agri-food sector especially for dairy, pork and beef products.  Ireland is a significant exporter to Mexico of powdered milk and milk derivatives.  There are also many exciting opportunities in Mexico for Irish businesses including in the automotive, aeronautics, electronics, financial and telecommunications sector.

EU-Mercosur - The EU recently reached political agreement in their negotiations with the Mercosur region (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay).  The EU-Mercosur Agreement is the EU’s largest trade deal to date.  The Agreement covers a population of over 770 million with trade in goods and services valued at €122 billion.  It aims to reduced and, in some areas, eliminate trade tariffs between the EU and the Mercosur region.  In 2018, Ireland exported €0.5 billion worth of goods to the Mercosur region.  In 2017 – the latest year for which data is available – services exports to Mercosur totalled almost €1.5 billion.  Trade with this region has grown by 19% in the period 2010 to 2016.  The EU-Mercosur Agreement will, we anticipate, allow Irish exporters to expand faster, and will open opportunities across a wide range of sectors – in business services, chemicals, machinery, medical devices and processed food and dairy.  This Agreement will see a significant reduction or elimination of tariffs and barriers to trade that will allow a cross flow of trading and investment between Ireland and the rest of the EU, and the Mercosur region.  The EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement will make exports from Ireland more attractive and potentially increase the demand for Irish products.  

As the Deputy will be aware from Debates in this House before the summer Recess, the TRQ agreed in respect of beef is more than we would have wished for.  Equally, there was much debate about the environmental sustainability elements of the Agreement. 

The final text of the Agreement will be reviewed by lawyers from both parties, a process called “legal scrubbing” and translated into the various EU and Mercosur languages.  After this, the agreement will be submitted for the approval of EU Member States and of the European Parliament before signature - a process we believe will take 2 years based on previous FTAs. 

The Government has committed to a full independent economic impact analysis, and to an environmental impact assessment of the deal, in the meantime.

EU-Australia - Negotiations for an FTA with Australia commenced in July 2018.  Four rounds of negotiations have been held with the most recent taking place 1st-5th July 2019.  The fifth round is scheduled to take place the week commencing the 14th October.  Good progress has been made across many areas to date, however, more challenging discussions are also anticipated on sensitive issues such as recognition of the EU’s Geographic Indicators for food and beverages, and in finding agreement on the structure of tariff offers. 

EU-New Zealand – Negotiations for an FTA with New Zealand also commenced in 2018. To date there have been four rounds of negotiations with the most recent taking place from 13th-17th May 2019 in Wellington. Overall, progress has been constructive with some chapters capable of being closed and the negotiation continuing with the date of the next round yet to be agreed.  

EU-Chile – Negotiations for a trade agreement with Chile were launched in November 2017.  There have been four rounds of discussions to date, the latest taking place in Santiago de Chile 1– 5 April 2019. Over the course of the round the negotiating teams discussed all the issues covered by the Agreement.  

EU- Indonesia - The first FTA negotiations with Indonesia took place in September 2016.  The eighth round of negotiations took place in Jakarta from 17th-21st June 2019.  The negotiations are approximately at the half-way point.  Good progress has been made in a number of areas, however, more challenging discussions lie ahead.  The ninth round of negotiations is expected to be held in early December 2019.

In relation to EU-US discussion on trade, on the 25th July 2018, European Commission President Juncker and President Trump met in Washington to launch a new phase in the close friendship and strong trade relations between the United States and the European Union.  They agreed a Joint EU-US Statement to:

- work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies (on non-auto industrial goods) and to work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans,

- strengthen strategic energy cooperation to potentially increase US imports of (LNG) to diversify the EU’s energy supply,

- launch a close dialogue on standards to ease trade barriers, reduce bureaucratic obstacles, and slash costs, and

- work closely together with like-minded partners to reform the WTO and to address unfair trading practices, including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, industrial subsidies, distortions created by state owned enterprises, and overcapacity.

An EU-US Executive Working Group (EWG), was established on foot of the July joint statement, co-chaired by EU Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmström and the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, as the vehicle for carrying forward this joint agenda.  The EWG has met over a dozen occasions most recently in New York on 24th September 2019.

On 15th April 2019, the EU Council voted by qualified majority to approve the negotiating directives for the commencement of trade negotiations with the US in the sectors of conformity assessment and the removal of tariffs on industrial goods.  The approval of the negotiating directives was a key step on the road to a possible future limited trade agreement between the EU and US.

On 25th July 2019 the European Commission released a progress report – available on the DG Trade website - on the work of the EWG in delivering on the EU-US Joint Statement July 2018. Entitled “Greater together: Slashing billions in industrial tariffs and boosting transatlantic trade”, this is the second progress report since the formation of the EWG.  The report underlines the fact that there has been concrete progress made in EU-US trading relationship in the areas of conformity assessment (full implementation of the Mutual Recognition Agreement on Pharmaceuticals) and cooperation on increasing EU purchasing of US soya beans.  There have also been positive conversations around medical devices and cybersecurity.  While these areas of progress are encouraging, no progress had been achieved in the area of Industrial Goods. The USTR has made clear to Commissioner Malmström that the US will not engage on this strand as a future deal will not be acceptable to Congress, without Agriculture being included.  The relevant EU Negotiating Directive, or mandate, drawn up in accordance with the July 2018 agreement between the US and EU Commission Presidents, makes clear that Agriculture is not comprehended by the discussions.  Therefore, progress on Conformity Assessment is certainly more achievable, but more engagement with the US is required. 

US “Section 232” tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the EU remain in place.  Additionally, President Trump delayed by 6 months, to November 2019, the imposition of tariffs on automotive and automotive parts imports from the EU to allow US trade officials to attempt to negotiate a solution to what the US sees as a matter of national security – that is, that the importation of autos and auto-parts is a threat to US national security, a position the EU cannot accept.  While the US has signalled its view the commencement of a new EU Commission term in November 2019 is an opportunity to re-engage on trade matters, the EU have been clear that there is no mandate from Member States to revisit the existing Negotiating Directives to discuss agriculture.

While the position of both parties regarding agriculture remains a barrier to significant progress in terms of negotiating an agreement on industrial goods, there has been progress both through the aforementioned EWG and the recent renegotiation of the “Hilton” Beef quota between the EU and US.  This agreement does not change the overall volume, quality or safety of beef imported into the EU; rather it allocates a larger share of the WTO quota (35,000 tonnes out of a total of 45,000 tonnes) to the United States, phased in over a period of 7 years.  The quota was an interim solution put in place some years ago to address a longstanding dispute between the EU and the US regarding the EU’s ban on the importation of hormone beef into the EU.  This agreement regarding the redistribution of the Hilton Quota is the result of considerable negotiations between all interested countries.

In relation to the Deputy’s Question regarding proposed duties on EU imports, these relate to cases where both the EU and the US have been found at fault by the WTO in relation to providing certain subsidies to their aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, respectively.  In that regard, the WTO this week published their Arbitration findings in the Airbus case which effectively authorised the US to apply retaliatory measures up to the value of $7.5 billion annually against the EU.  As this dispute relates to the aircraft manufacturing sector, the primary target for US remedial tariffs would be aircraft manufacturing, however, the US can apply retaliatory measures to a wider range of goods exported by EU Member States.

As International Trade Policy is a competence of the EU Commission under the EU Treaties, the EU Commission takes the lead on this issue taking into account the views of individual Member States and the collective good of the Union.  Therefore, Ireland continues to be engaged with the Commission, both at a Ministerial and Official level on these issues. Indeed, as recently as Tuesday of this week, I attended the EU Council of Trade Ministers’ meeting in Brussels where, among other items, EU Ministers discussed our concerns on these Aircraft cases and I articulated Ireland’s particular concerns.  In that regard, the European Commission has consistently communicated to the US that the EU is ready to work with them to agree on a fair and balanced solution for our respective aircraft industries.  As recently as this July, the EU shared concrete proposals with the US for a new regime on aircraft subsidies, and a way forward on existing compliance obligations on both sides, to avoid a round of tit-for-tar tariffs as the EU will have a similar option against the US in some 6/9 months when an Arbitrator determines the quantum of damage to EU industry US subsidies to Boeing has caused. So far, regretfully, the US has not engaged. Nonetheless, Ireland’s preference, as I and my Government colleagues as well as my officials have articulated, along with the EU, is for a negotiated settlement to be reached on these issues.

Initial analysis by my Department of the US list of products on which it proposes to apply tariffs on foot of the Airbus Arbitration findings published this week is that Irish exporters of certain cheese products, pork products, butter and Irish Cream Liqueurs will be subject to additional import duties of 25%.  On the other hand, despite earlier lists published by the US, Irish Whiskey appears not to be included among the current measures.

My Department has engaged with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as industry and its Enterprise Agencies in relation to the implications for Irish business of the US proposals here.  In parallel, Government has highlighted our concerns in bilateral engagements with US interlocuters in Dublin and Washington, intensively over recent months. The issue of the tariffs was also raised during the US Presidential and Vice-Presidential visits this year.  I and my officials, as well as colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and Agriculture, Food & the Marine, continue in contact with our US counterparts in Dublin and Washington on these issues.

Our position remains that the mutual imposition of sanctions will only inflict damage on businesses and citizens on both sides of the Atlantic and harm global trade and the broader aviation industry at a sensitive time.  Ireland does not want to see this escalation at this time.

State Aid

Ceisteanna (126)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

126. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if changes to EU State aid rules as a policy lever to support exposed firms and exports from a no-deal Brexit were discussed at the EU Competitiveness Council meeting in Brussels; and if not, the reason Ireland did not raise the issue. [40443/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My colleague Minister Breen attended the most recent Competitiveness Council meeting on 26th September 2019.  State Aid rules did not feature on the agenda of this meeting. The Competitiveness Council is a consultative committee and is not a forum for direct representations from Member States.   Changes to State Aid rules is therefore not part of the remit of the Council.

However, my Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit.  My Department has been working closely with the EU Commission and DG Competition since November 2017 through the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid which was established following a meeting between my predecessor, Frances Fitzgerald and the Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager.  The Group comprises senior representatives from DG Comp, my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Enterprise Ireland.  Its objective has been to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules.  

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 2018 in Brexit impacted businesses.  Options available through the Agriculture Guidelines are also being developed to support large food companies.

Earlier this year I met with Commissioner Vestager.  The focus of the meeting centred around the severe challenges that Irish businesses will face when the UK leaves the EU 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 implication become known.  The Commissioner emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

Should further issues arise that require an approach that does not fit within the existing State aid rules, this will be raised as part of these Working Group discussions.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (127)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

127. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the latest figures regarding the Brexit SME loan scheme launched in March 2018 for each item (details supplied) until the end of quarter three 2019, in tabular form. [40444/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides affordable working capital to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees that are or will be Brexit impacted and which meet the scheme criteria.  The €23 million exchequer funding announced in the 2018 Budget (€14 million from my Department and €9 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) has been leveraged to provide a fund of up to €300 million over the lifetime of the scheme.

The scheme features a two-stage application process. First, businesses must apply to the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to confirm their eligibility for the scheme. Businesses can use guidelines provided on the SBCI website to determine if they are eligible, and if so, complete the eligibility form. As part of the process, businesses must submit a business plan, demonstrating the means by which they intend to innovate, change or adapt to meet their Brexit challenges. The SBCI assesses the applications and successful applicants receive an eligibility reference number.

Successful applicants can then apply for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using their eligibility reference number. Participating finance providers are the Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Allied Irish Bank. Approval of loans is subject to the finance providers' own credit policies and procedures. 

The figures in the table below are those as to 27 September 2019. The Department receives a report each quarter from the SBCI on the uptake of the scheme. A number of requested figures have not been included in this table as they pertain to the relationship between banks and their client SMEs and so are beyond the remit of these reports. Some questions requested the same information and have, therefore, been answered once.   

Requested Details (as at 27 September 2019)

Number of businesses which have applied to the SBCI to confirm eligibility for the scheme

816*

Number of businesses which have had their applications assessed by SBCI

756

Number of businesses which have not had their applications assessed by SBCI

60

Number of businesses which have had a successful application and received an  eligibility reference number

738

Number of businesses which had a successful application and received no eligibility reference number

N/A

The number of businesses who did not have a successful application and received no eligibility reference number

18

List of current finance providers

Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and AIB

Number of SMEs which have progressed to sanction at finance provider level

194

Total value of loans progressed to sanction at finance provider level

€43.52m

Current interest rate for those in receipt of approved loans

Maximum interest rate under the scheme is 4%

* 153 of total applications received relate to repeat / duplicate applications

Future Growth Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (128)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

128. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the latest figures regarding the future growth loan scheme launched in March 2019 for each item (details supplied) until the end of quarter three 2019, in tabular form. [40445/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Future Growth Loan Scheme makes up to €300 million worth of loans available with a term of eight to ten years and is open to eligible Irish businesses, including those in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic long-term investment. Finance provided under the scheme is competitively priced and has favourable terms, for example, no security is required for loans up to €500,000.

The scheme has been developed by my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in partnership with the Department of Finance, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and the European Investment Fund. 

Loans to businesses under the scheme can be used to fund investments in equipment, machinery, buildings and associated overhead costs for organisational and/or process innovation.  Loans to primary agriculture under the scheme can be used to fund investment in tangible and intangible assets on agricultural holdings linked to primary agricultural production.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme features a two-stage application process. Applications for eligibility under the scheme is made through the SBCI website. The SBCI assesses the applications and successful applicants are issued an eligibility reference number.

Eligible businesses may then apply for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using the eligibility reference number. Approval of loans under this scheme is subject to the finance providers’ own credit policies and procedures.

The figures in the table below are those as at 27 September 2019. The Department receives a report each quarter from the SBCI on the uptake of the scheme. A number of requested figures have not been included in this table as they pertain to the relationship between banks and their client SMEs and so are beyond the remit of these reports. Some questions requested the same information and have, therefore, been answered once.

Requested Details (at 27 September 2019)

Number of businesses which have applied to the SBCI to confirm eligibility for the scheme

1,353

Number of businesses which have had their applications assessed by SBCI

1,285

Number of businesses which have not had their applications assessed by SBCI

68

Number of businesses which have had a successful application and received an eligibility reference   number

1,283

Number of businesses which had a successful application and received no eligibility reference number

N/A

The number of businesses who did not have a successful application and received no eligibility   reference number

2

List of current finance providers

Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, KBC

Number of SMEs which have progressed to sanction at finance provider level

270

Total value of loans progressed to sanction at finance provider level

€43,805,900

Current interest rate for those in receipt of approved loans

Maximum interest rate of 4.5% for loans less than €250,000 and 3.5% for loans more than or equal to   €250,000

 

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Ceisteanna (129)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

129. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she has considered calling on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to review dual pricing by the insurance industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40458/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Central Bank has responsibility for consumer protection in the industry insurance under consumer protection legislation of general application in the form of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and the Regulations that give effect to the Directive on unfair terms in consumer contracts as well as under provisions specific to regulated financial services providers such as the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code. Any review of dual pricing by the insurance industry would accordingly be for the Central Bank to undertake and questions about such a review should be addressed to the Minister for Finance.

Economic Competitiveness

Ceisteanna (130)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

130. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the specific actions taken to tackle the cost of living and the cost of doing business as identified by the National Competitiveness Council; the rank of Ireland in the EU in terms of the EUROSTAT price level index based on current data; the number of percentage points higher than the EU average in terms of prices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40463/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The National Competitiveness Council’s ‘Cost of Doing Business in Ireland 2019’ report found that while Ireland is a high cost economy, the cost base for enterprise is internationally competitive across a range of metrics (e.g. the cost of starting a business, communications costs, and average income taxes). However, the Council noted that cost pressures are evident in some areas including the labour market, credit, business services and residential property.

Examining our price level index, an indicator of aggregate prices relative to the EU average that is deflated by GDP, Ireland had the 5th highest prices in the European Union, behind Denmark, Finland, Luxemburg and Sweden. In 2018, Ireland’s purchasing power parities price level index was 13.3 percent higher than the EU average. Nevertheless, prices in Ireland increased by 0.7% in 2018, which was markedly lower than the European Union inflation average of 1.9%.

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) plays an important institutional role ensuring that the Government has an independent voice raising important competitiveness and productivity issues. Under the Council’s Terms of Reference, it is required to prepare two annual reports:

- An annual report benchmarking the competitiveness of Ireland’s business sector against international peer countries; and,

- An annual report outlining the main competitiveness challenges facing the business sector in Ireland over the medium term, and the policy responses required to meet them.

Alongside these reports, they also produce a Cost of Doing Business report, a Productivity Statement, and a series of shorter competitiveness bulletins. As the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I am responsible for presenting the findings of the NCC’s competitiveness documents to the Taoiseach and the Government.

Addressing Ireland’s competitiveness remains a key priority for the Government. We continue to monitor Ireland's cost base and to analyse the factors that are crucial to improving our competitiveness. A range of initiatives are in process across Departments to: enhance our cost competitiveness and productivity; improve the ease of doing business; reduce the administrative burden businesses face; and, drive greater efficiencies across the enterprise base.

Significantly, in March 2019, Future Jobs Ireland was launched, a cross-government framework designed to improve our economy’s resilience in the face of emerging and future challenges. It sets out 26 ‘ambitions’ to 2025 across five pillars in the areas of innovation; productivity; skills and talent; participation; and transitioning to a low carbon economy. This initiative has proposed concrete and ambitious actions to enhance our productivity and competitiveness in order to ensure that we are well positioned to adapt to transformational changes the economy will face in the years ahead.

A range of specific deliverables in Future Jobs Ireland 2019 aim to enhance the business environment and improve competitiveness, as well as other factors, that contribute to specific sectoral cost challenges. For example:

- On credit and financial costs, the Future Growth Loan Scheme will provide long term debt financing for strategic investments at competitive rates in a post-Brexit environment;

- On legal services, new business models for legal services will be introduced, including new legal partnerships and limited liability partnerships;

- On construction, an implementation plan for actions to stimulate construction sector productivity will be delivered, including greater deployment of Building Information Modelling.

Increasing productivity is the only long-term sustainable way of increasing the standard of living for our people, and there are a range of further initiatives underway across Government to enhance productivity, including:

- The review of SME policy designed to assess the SME business ecosystem and the range of supports offered to SMEs undertaken by my Department in conjunction with the OECD; and

- The development of an Industry 4.0 strategy to respond to the challenges and opportunities arising from the impact of digital technologies.

As a small open economy, we must never underestimate the importance of maintaining competitiveness, and ensuring that the cost of doing business does not impede this. In this regard, the actions outlined form an integral component of the Government’s over-arching plan for the future of the Irish economy.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (131)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

131. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of food businesses that have applied for working capital under the Brexit loan scheme which opened in March 2018 up until the end of quarter 3 2019; the number of such businesses that have been sanctioned financing to date; and the value of same. [40482/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides affordable working capital to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees that are or will be Brexit impacted and which meet the scheme criteria.  The €23 million exchequer funding announced in the 2018 Budget has been leveraged to provide a fund of up to €300 million over the lifetime of the scheme.

Given its significant exposure to the UK market, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine contributed 40% of the State funding. As a result, at least 40% of the fund will be available to food businesses.

The scheme features a two-stage application process. First, businesses must apply to the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to confirm their eligibility for the scheme. Businesses can use guidelines provided on the SBCI website to determine if they are eligible, and if so, to complete the eligibility form.  As part of the process, businesses must submit a business plan, demonstrating the means by which they intend to innovate, change or adapt to meet their Brexit challenges. The SBCI assesses the applications and successful applicants receive an eligibility reference number.

Successful applicants can then apply for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using their eligibility reference number. Participating finance providers are the Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Allied Irish Bank. Approval of loans is subject to the finance providers' own credit policies and procedures. 

As at close of business 30 September 2019, 151 food businesses have applied for eligibility under the Brexit Loan Scheme since it opened in March 2018. 128 of the received applications were approved and received eligibility codes and 35 food businesses have been sanctioned financing to date with a total value of €9.19 million.

Air Ambulance Service Data

Ceisteanna (132)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

132. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to secure the air ambulance service at Custume Barracks, Athlone; the number of missions flown in each year of operation and to date in 2019; if assurance will be provided that its role will be expanded on foot of the operation of the second air ambulance in Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40270/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS), which is operated from Custume Barracks in Athlone, has been successfully operating for many years in partnership with the Irish Air Corps.  Since its inception in 2012, the EAS Service has completed more than 2,600 missions and provides rapid access to appropriate treatment for very high acuity patients, specifically where land ambulance transit times would not be clinically appropriate.

 The Programme for a Partnership Government committed to examining the feasibility to expand aeromedical services, and the launch of the Munster Hems service fulfils that commitment.  The service complements our existing EAS in Athlone.  The new service will improve access to health services for patients in Munster.  Given the distance from Athlone, parts of Munster are not easily accessed by the EAS and the time advantage posed by air travel is not always realisable.  It should also be noted that having a second aeromedical base takes some pressure off the EAS in Athlone and therefore the benefit of having a service in Munster will accrue to other parts of the country.

In relation to the number of missions flown in each year of operation and to date in 2019; as this is a service issue, I have asked the HSE to reply to you directly.

Ambulance Service Data

Ceisteanna (133)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

133. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the amount paid to a service (details supplied) for operations tasked by the National Ambulance Service in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, respectively; the average cost per mission in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40271/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service issue, I have asked the HSE to reply to you directly.

National Children's Hospital Expenditure

Ceisteanna (134)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

134. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of the national children’s hospital and ancillary facilities; the amount paid to date; the expected amount that will be paid between now and the completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40399/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I advised Government in December 2018 that the final cost of the design, build and equipment programme for which the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board is responsible for is now at €1,433 million. There has been no change to this figure advised to Government.

The construction phase of the project is underway. The main hospital is scheduled to be completed by late 2022 and, following a period of commissioning, is expected to open to patients in 2023.

The total capital expenditure on the new children's hospital project from 2013 to end September 2019 is €385.13m.

Hospital Beds Data

Ceisteanna (135)

John Brassil

Ceist:

135. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Health the occupancy rate for community beds for each of the hospitals at Tralee, Listowel, Killarney, Dingle and Caherciveen community hospitals in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40176/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (136)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

136. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if an appointment will be expedited for a person (details supplied). [40180/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, since January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Medicinal Products Availability

Ceisteanna (137)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

137. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health his plans to remove the age restriction on making FreeStyle Libre available to all persons with type 1 diabetes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40181/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Appointments Delays

Ceisteanna (138)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

138. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive an appointment; the reason for the seven-year delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40188/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, since January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Rehabilitative Training Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (139)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

139. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Health if the decision to cease the rehabilitative training allowance for new entrants will be reversed in view of the significant educational and personal development opportunities it offers to persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40189/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

This Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives.  The commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

The payment of the Rehabilitative Training (RT) Bonus came into place on the transition of Rehabilitative / Training Programmes to the HSE following the dissolution of the National Rehabilitation Board in June 2000.

The decision to phase out the Rehabilitative Training (RT) Bonus payment is designed to bring equity and consistency between people with a disability attending HSE funded rehabilitative training programmes who receive the payment, and those attending similar HSE funded Day Services or in other State schemes such as further education and training, who do not.  

This action will ensure all HSE funded Day Services are provided on an equitable basis and will also ensure that the use of finite resources is maximised. 

The Rehabilitative Training (RT) Bonus Payment is a historical payment, introduced in July 2001, aligned with a similar FÁS Training Bonus. However, during 2011 the FÁS Training Bonus was reduced to €20.00 and then eliminated the following year while to date the RT Bonus Payment has continued to be paid in the Health Sector  

It is worth remembering that:

There is no cut in the number of RT places available

There is no cut in payment of the bonus - those who have it will continue to receive it for the remainder of their RT Placement

All participants continue to be eligible for Disability Allowance of €203 per week

All participants continue to be eligible for a free travel pass

No expectation of an additional RT bonus payment has been created by HSE for 2019    participants

The redirected funding (€3.7 m over 4 years), which will be ring-fenced, will facilitate 148 full day placements or 370 enhanced day places nationally based on priority need.   

Each CHO will have the flexibility to redirect its own savings to address local service requirements. The HSE will put in place a monitoring system and regularly report the additional placements realised to the Department of Health.

Dental Services Provision

Ceisteanna (140)

James Browne

Ceist:

140. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the provision of a periodontist in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40191/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for reply to the Deputy.