The Duffy Cahill report, which was commissioned by the Government in the aftermath of the Clery’s closure, highlighted how the issues raised by that event and the subsequent legal cases are highly complex.
The Duffy Cahill report was sent to the Company Law Review Group (CLRG) in 2016 for its consideration as part of the work of that group in advising the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on any changes that it considered necessary with respect to the protection of employees and unsecured creditors. (The CLRG is a statutory body comprising members drawn from regulatory, legal, business and employee interests).
The CLRG as part of its deliberations also considered related amendments proposed by Deputy Nash (then Senator Nash) to the Companies (Accounting) Bill in April/May 2017.
The CLRG's report on the 'Protection of Employees and Unsecured Creditors' was presented to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation in June 2017 and published on the website of the CLRG. It did not include the implementation of the Duffy Cahill report or the Senator Nash proposals in its recommendations.
It is clear that the implementation of the recommendations in the Duffy Cahill report would give rise to a host of complex issues and that any proposal to progress them would require further careful consideration involving consultation with many stakeholders.
There is a Programme for Government commitment to:
- Review the Companies Acts with a view to addressing the practice of trading entities splitting their operations between trading and property with the result being the trading business (including the jobs) going into solvency and the assets being taken out of the original business;
- Examine the legal provision that pertains to any sale to a connected party following the insolvency of a company including who can object and the allowable grounds of an objection; and
- Review whether the legal provisions surrounding collective redundancies and the liquidation of companies effectively protect the rights of workers.
An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar T.D. has asked the Company Law Review Group to undertake an expedited review of this commitment as it relates to company law, to be completed before the end of the year.
Although separate and distinct from the situation that pertained to Clery's Department Store, the Duffy Cahill report has been raised recently in the context of the liquidation of Debenhams Retail Ireland. My colleagues, Ministers of State Damien English and Robert Troy have met with some of those former employees and trade union representatives. They, along with the Tánaiste and officials from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation will give detailed and serious consideration to the various proposals now arising in this context, including those in the Duffy Cahill report, and within the framework of the Programme for Government.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.