Header Item Written Answers Nos. 131-148
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Value for Money Reviews
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Applications
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Staff Remuneration
 Header Item Public Sector Staff Recruitment
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure
 Header Item Flood Prevention Measures
 Header Item Political Reform
 Header Item Tribunals of Inquiry Recommendations
 Header Item European Court of Human Rights Judgments
 Header Item Redundancy Payments
 Header Item International Agreements
 Header Item Exports Data
 Header Item County and City Enterprise Boards

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 833 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 131-148

Public Procurement Contracts

 131. Deputy Eric Byrne Information on Eric J. Byrne Zoom on Eric J. Byrne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the amount of Fairtrade public procurement by the Government in the most recent available year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10505/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Under EU rules on public procurement public works, supplies and service contracts above certain thresholds must be advertised on the Official Journal of the EU and awarded on the basis of objective and non-restrictive criteria. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. It would be a breach of these rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular suppliers on the basis of grounds that could be considered discriminatory and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules.

The consideration of clauses that allow for the inclusion of social and environmental clauses in public contracts is something that I have been examining. Social clauses can be used in public procurement in cases where they are targeted at factoring into the procurement process consideration of social issues such as employment opportunities, equal opportunities and social inclusion.  In order to be compatible with EU law, they must be made known to all interested parties and must not restrict participation by contractors from other Member States. The EU procurement rules allow social considerations to be included as a contract performance conditions, provided they are not discriminatory and are included in the contract notice or in the contract documents and relate to the performance of the contract.

In terms of the scope for including such clauses, challenges arise from the need to ensure that: value for money is not adversely affected; additional costs are not placed on domestic suppliers relative to other potential suppliers; and the targeted benefit is capable of being measured and monitored during execution of the contract.

Contracting authorities are best placed to gauge whether the use of such clauses is appropriate to a particular procurement process. As these clauses are included in the contract performance element of the contract, data on the many individual elements agreed at contracting authority level is not collected centrally. However, I am informed by the Office of Government Procurement that they have such contract clauses in their centralised contracts for clothing such as uniforms.

The Deputy may be aware that a revised set of EU Directives governing public procurement have recently been agreed. The revised directives, when implemented, should provide greater scope and legal clarity in relation to the use of social criteria in the context of an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money.

Public Procurement Contracts

 132. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if banking and legal advice services worth an estimated €103 million from 2011-2013 are subject to tender and financial review. [10565/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I should point out that contracts for banking and legal advice services are not subject to the full scope of EU Public Procurement Directives. Therefore contracting authorities have some flexibility in conducting the appropriate competitive tendering process. For example, they are not tied to the prescribed tendering procedures or timeframes for submission of tenders or expressions of interest and there is scope for dialogue and negotiation conducted in an open and fair objective manner.

However, it is a basic principle of national public procurement policy that a competitive process should always be used unless there are justifiably exceptional circumstances. Whilst it is recognised that many public authorities already tender for their legal services. My Department has issued guidelines last year to re-iterate that in procuring these advisory services, public tendering should be the norm. The Circular also sets out for the first time a helpful guide for public bodies on some straightforward measures they should take, (including under Rules of Court), to better manage and control their legal costs.

In addition, my Department, through the Office of Government Procurement, has a particular responsibility to assist public bodies that procure legal services with the objective of leveraging resources in order to achieve best value for money. In that regard the Office of Government Procurement will examine the spend on legal services across the public service and carry out a review of the markets for the various commonly used services involved to determine the appropriate commercial strategies for how such services are procured.

Value for Money Reviews

 133. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if a value for money review is conducted on the cost of banking and legal advice services to ensure that public funds are spent on what is actually needed for the best price. [10566/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Value for Money Reviews are key analytical tool to be utilised within each Department for the purpose of assessing programme expenditure. Responsibility for identifying specific topics to be subject to these reviews is a matter for individual Departments. In particular, Departments are required to take into account the extent to which there is a prima facie case for selecting different areas of programme expenditure for analysis. Similarly, Departments are responsible for carrying out the reviews, publishing them and submitting them to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The role of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to Value for Money Reviews is to provide overall guidance, technical assistance and quality assurance to Departments. In addition, the Department has a role in periodically co-ordinating the development of a Government wide programme of reviews.

Questions regarding the specific topics of banking and legal advice services should be directed to the relevant Departments and Offices which have direct responsibility for these areas of expenditure.

Departmental Expenditure

 134. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin further to Parliamentary Question No. 81 of 6 February 2014, if all Departments are complying with his requirements to publish purchase orders over €20,000 on their websites; if he will provide a Department breakdown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10650/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I can confirm that all Departments are complying with the requirement to publish details of purchase orders over €20,000. The following table sets out where this information can be found on each Department's website:

DepartmentLocation of Purchase Order Details
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marinehttp://www.agriculture.gov.ie/customerservice/customerservices/paymentsinformation/
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht http://www.ahg.gov.ie/en/AboutUs/PurchaseOrders/
Department of Children and Youth Affairshttp://www.dcya.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=%2Fdocuments%2FAboutus%2FDeptStrategy.htm
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resourceshttp://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Corporate+Units/Press+Room/Publications/
Department of Defencehttp://www.defence.ie/website.nsf/document+id/587FA6400A31525D80256C63005BE928
Department of Education and Skills http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Corporate-Reports/Payments-Over-20k-/
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/ProcurementPaymentsover20000/
Department of Finance http://www.finance.gov.ie/who-we-are/financials/purchase-orders/purchase-orders
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade https://www.dfa.ie/about-us/working-with-us/procurement-opportunities/procurement-opportunities-with-us/
Department of Healthhttp://www.dohc.ie/public/Purchase_Orders/
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovationhttp://www.djei.ie/corporate/information/procurement.htm
Department of Justice and Equalityhttp://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Financial_Management_Unit
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform http://per.gov.ie/purchase-orders/
Department of Social Protection http://www.welfare.ie/EN/AboutUs/Pages/Procurem entPolicy.aspx
Department of the Taoiseachhttp://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2013/
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport http://www.dttas.ie/corporate/english/departmental-purchase-orders-greater-%E2%82%AC20000

Flood Relief Schemes Applications

 135. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the reasons that the Office of Public Works has not taken immediate action to alleviate regular flooding at a location (details supplied) in County Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that his Department has full knowledge of this situation for the last decade; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that up to six families cannot access their homes by road and that farmers and animals are also affected; the action he proposes to take; when will works commence; the amount of money being allocated for this project; if he will allocate the necessary funds to Galway County Council for these urgent and critical works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10806/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The townlands of Ballyboy, Caherduff and Ardrahan are situated on the Cregaclare to Monksfield River which flows on to Aggard Stream and outfalls into the Dunkellin River upstream of Rahasane Turlough.

  The proposed Dunkellin River and Aggard Stream Flood Relief Scheme will include flood alleviation measures from upstream of Craughwell Road Bridge to Kilcolgan on the Dunkellin River and also include maintenance of the aforementioned channels from Cregaclare to the outfall into the Dunkellin River, including culvert replacement works where existing blocked and undersized piped crossings currently exist.

  Galway County Council is acting as Contracting Authority for the proposed flood relief scheme, which is being funded by the Office of Public Works. The Council has appointed engineering and environmental consultants to design the scheme, and is progressing the project under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. I am advised that Galway County Council intends to submit the scheme to An Bord Pleanála for consideration in early Summer. It is not possible to indicate when works can be commenced until the scheme has been progressed through the planning process

  It should be noted that the Cregaclare channel and the lower Dunkellin River form part of the Dunkellin Drainage District for which Galway County Council has a statutory maintenance responsibility. Given the recurrence of flooding again at Cregaclare in 2014, OPW will be requesting Galway County Council to proceed, this Summer, with maintenance of the channel from Cregaclare to its outfall into the Dunkellin River in advance of the proposed Dunkellin River and Aggard Stream Flood Relief Scheme works.   This maintenance work should significantly reduce the localised road flooding which is occurring in the Ardrahan area at this time.

Departmental Staff Data

 136. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the number of staff seconded to his Department each year between 2011 and 2013 from external companies; the company from which each person was seconded; and the role of each person in his Department. [10821/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Although staff are seconded from time to time from other Government Departments and the wider Public Service, there have not been any staff seconded to my Department from external companies between 2011 and 2013.   

  However, the Deputy may wish to note that there have been occasions when individuals from the private sector have been engaged by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform on a "contract for services" basis.   These  appointments  would not be classified as secondments under the strict definition of the term,  but details  are nonethless provided below for information:

YEARFROM/TO NUMBERCOMPANY (where applicable)ROLE
2011June 2011 to November 2011

1Deloitte Expert support on development of the 2011 Public Service Reform Plan
 June 2011 to November 20111AccentureExpert support on development of the 2011 Public Service Reform Plan
2012March 2012 to date

1n/a Provision of legal advisory services for the development and implementation of the Government Reform Programme  and the Statute Law Revision Programme
 May 2012 to date

1n/aProvision of legal advisory services for the implementation of the Law Revision Programme Statute
2013January 2013 to date

1Peter Smyth Management Consultancy Ltd.Assisting with the establishment of the Office of Government Procurement
 March 2013 to date

1 Peter Smyth Management Consultancy Ltd.Assisting with the establishment of the Office of Government Procurement
 October 2013 to December 2013

1 Equita Consulting Ltd. Assisting with the establishment of the Office of Government Procurement
 July 2013 to date

1 AstecProject Management for Financial Management Shared Services Initiative



   

Departmental Agencies Staff Remuneration

 137. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the implications for agencies funded by his Department that fail to comply with consolidated public sector pay scales by continuing to make top-up payments to staff; when he expects this issue to be definitively resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10920/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Institute of Public Administration (IPA), which are the bodies directly under the auspices of my Department have confirmed to the Department that they are in compliance with  public service pay policy and that no top-up payments are made outside the pay scales in use.

The ESRI salary scales are not sanctioned by me as Minister  but must be approved by the Council of the Institute. I am advised that administration staff salaries in the Institute are linked to the Civil Service and HSE salary scales. Research Staff salaries are linked to UCD pay scales, adjusted to reflect different terms and conditions compared to the Universities.

For completeness, my Department sought similar confirmation from the Special EU Programmes Body and the bodies incorporated by Votes 14, 16, 17 and 19 i.e. the State Lab, Valuation Office, Public Appointments Service and Office of the Ombudsman. All the bodies concerned have also provided assurances that they are in compliance with  public service pay policy. 

Public Sector Staff Recruitment

 138. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will set out the history of the moratorium on public sector recruitment, particularly pertaining to local authorities, including details of the circumstances where the moratorium has been lifted. [10943/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The current moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service was  introduced in 2009, as part of the response to the fiscal and economic crisis.    Since then, and in tandem with annual headcount targets set for each area of the public service under the Employment Control Framework, the Moratorium has been applied across the entire public service.  Together, these two policy tools have played an important part in helping to bring the cost base of the public service into line with what the State can afford.  They have also served to drive unprecedented reform across the public service in terms of how services are delivered.  Nonetheless while overall serving public service numbers have reduced by ten percent since 2009, under the Moratorium the Government has also allowed critical posts to be filled, where they have arisen, in order to protect front-line and priority services. It is also worth noting that within the overall Employment Control Framework, each Government Department retains flexibility and discretion on exactly how staff resources are allocated in line with priorities.

Regarding local government, the day-to-day management of the Moratorium  in respect of local authorities is a matter, in the first instance, for the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.  The latest figures show that local authorities numbers have reduced by just under 7,500 over the last five years, but along with this there has been recruitment into key posts and service areas.  There has also been signficant reform and organisational restructuring, with more on the horizon, which is delivering a leaner, more efficient local government sector.  The plans for further reform in the local government sector are outlined in the Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016. Details about exceptions to the Moratorium are being compiled and I will have these forwarded to the Deputy directly.

Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure

 139. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if the Office of Public Works keeps figures on the impact of flooding on homes and businesses; if this is the case he will provide the actual figures or, where not yet compiled, the estimates for the number of individual homes and business premises directly affected by flooding in the years 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014, both nationally and by local authority area in tabular form, where possible the number of these homes that are privately owned and those which are rented from a local housing authority; the total cost to the Exchequer in 2012 and 2013 of repairing and cleaning up damage caused to these homes and properties by the floods in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10977/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The Office of Public Works does not compile or hold specific figures on the impact of flooding on individual homes and businesses, either nationally or locally. The figures the Deputy has requested may be available from the local authorities or from Insurance Ireland. The latter body maintains data on the total number and cost of claims by households and businesses for flood damage.

The OPW does not provide financial assistance to homeowners or other property owners in respect of flood damage to their properties. Since 2009, the Department of Social Protection operates a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme which is available to assist people whose homes have been damaged by flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and, in some instances, structural repairs. The scheme does not cover business or commercial losses. Information on the amount of expenditure under the scheme to date would be available from the Department of Social Protection.

Flood Prevention Measures

 140. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if the Office of Public Works has had any discussions with the Department of Finance on making the purchase and installation of domestic flood defences allowable for any form of tax relief or refund; and his views that the granting of such reliefs would be beneficial for proven and reliable domestic flood defences in areas susceptible to flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10978/14]

 141. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if and when the Office of Public Works. as part of its remit to deal with flood risk management, plans to incentivise the installation of appropriate and reliable domestic flood defence systems and products in private and local authority housing; the discussions he has had on this topic with other Government Departments, local authorities, agencies or commercial providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10979/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 and 141 together.

The Office of Public Works does not provide or operate a scheme of financial assistance for the purchase and installation of individual property protection against flooding. Discussions on such arrangements have not taken place with the Department of Finance in regard to tax reliefs or with other Departments. The provision of tax relief for homeowners for the purchase and installation of flood barriers and other protection devices is a matter for the Minister for Finance in the first instance.

A central focus of the Government's strategy to address flood risk is the implementation of a significant capital investment programme to build major flood relief schemes in the main areas at risk of flooding. A total of €225m has been allocated to the OPW over the period 2012 – 2016 and significant schemes are underway and at planning/design stage which will protect and benefit a substantial number of properties. OPW's capital allocation of €45m per annum is fully committed to expenditure on the delivery of these major flood relief schemes as well as to expenditure on the operation of its Minor Works Scheme which provides funding to local authorities to allow them undertake smaller scale works to deal with localised flooding problems. A significant part of the annual budget is allocated also to the implementation of the national Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme.

In assessing flood risk at any particular location, the installation of individual property protection may have a role to play in certain instances and this would be factored into the consideration of options to address flood risk at that particular location.

Political Reform

 142. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin his views on progress on political reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11039/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Good progress continues to be made on the reform priorities to strengthen public governance included in the Programme for Government for which my Department is responsible.  The current position regarding to the main elements of this reform programme is summarised below.

The General Scheme of the Regulation of Lobbying Bill was submitted for pre-legislative scrutiny to the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and the committee's report has been received by my Department.  Drafting of the Bill by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is continuing and it is anticipated that Bill will be published in Q2 2014, and it is planned to present the Bill to the Oireachtas before the summer recess. The Protected Disclosures Bill, 2013, establishing a detailed and comprehensive legislative framework protecting whistleblowers in all sectors of the economy, was passed by the Seanad late last year, has passed Second Stage in the Dáil recently, and is expected to be enacted by late April/early May. The Freedom of Information Bill 2013, published in July 2013, restores Ireland's FOI legislation and extends FOI to all public bodies.  It completed Committee Stage in the Dáil last November and is expected to be enacted before the Summer. In tandem with work on the new FOI Bill, a revised draft Code of Practice for FOI for Public Bodies is in the process of being finalised drawing on the report and recommendations of FOI users, advocates and expert academic researchers in FOI nationally and internationally, as well as FOI experts in public bodies. Following Government approval it is intended to publish the draft Code for public consultation with a view to having it completed on or before enactment of the new FOI legislation.

Drafting of the General Scheme of a Bill by my Department to overhaul the current ethics framework is at an advanced stage. The draft Heads of a Bill based on a review of the current statutory framework for ethics, the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal and international best practice are intended to consolidate, simplify and modernise the current legal framework. A joint process is underway involving officials and representatives of civil society interests aimed at developing Ireland's first Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan.  The finalisation of this plan following its approval by Government will enable Ireland's full membership of the OGP reaffirming Ireland's commitment to open,  transparent and accountable public governance. A project has commenced to facilitate the implementation of the commitments encompassed by the Open Data Initiative I announced at the OGP Summit in London in autumn 2013. A comprehensive programme of Statute Law Revision has been approved by Government.  It is anticipated that the first Bill developed under this new programme will be published later this year. A consultation paper Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance has been published and a  public consultation process is currently under way. The aim of this process is to reform and reconfigure the relationship between Ministers and their Departments and civil servants to ensure that there is greater clarity about who is responsible to whom for what.  An Independent Panel has been established to manage and oversee this consultation process, review submissions received and to submit recommendations  for my consideration by May 2014.

The Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012 is now in force having significantly extended the Ombudsman's remit and strengthened the Ombudsman's powers.  The Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 was commenced last September.

Tribunals of Inquiry Recommendations

 143. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the steps he has taken to implement the recommendations of the Moriarty tribunal since its publication nearly three years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [10355/14]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Moriarty Tribunal made two recommendations for changes to company law, as follows:

- That a provision similar to section 172 of the UK Companies Act, 2006 be adopted, together with the adoption of additional implementation or enforcement measures.

- That consideration be given by the Oireachtas, and/or by the Company Law Review Group, to enacting provisions similar to those contained in Part 14 of the UK Companies Act, 2006, governing the control of political donations and expenditure.

  The Government considered that provisions in the Companies Bill 2012, which will consolidate and give a statutory footing to the duties of directors, meet the objectives of the first recommendation above. This Bill was published on 21 December 2012 and competed Committee Stage in the Dáil on the 6th December 2013.

  With regard to the second recommendation above, provisions restricting corporate donations are contained in the Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Act 2012, which comes within the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

European Court of Human Rights Judgments

 144. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the current position in Irish law regarding the implications of the conclusion of the Sorensen and Rasmussen versus Denmark case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10423/14]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton In a ruling delivered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 11 January 2006 in the case of Sørensen and Rasmussen v Denmark, the Court ruled that it is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for a person to be compelled to be a member of a specific trade union in order to be employed in a Danish enterprise. The question at issue was whether it is a violation of Article 11 of the ECHR to prevent people from obtaining employment if they refuse to be a member of a trade union that has concluded a closed-shop agreement with the enterprise in question.

Danish law specifically excluded employees from protection from dismissal on grounds of not being a member of an association or of a specified association in cases where the employee knew prior to employment that said membership was a condition of employment. The issue of the closed shop is not provided for specifically in Irish law.

Closed shops can be divided into two categories: pre-entry and post-entry. A pre-entry closed shop is a situation whereby persons are required to be members of a specific union before they can obtain certain jobs. A post-entry closed shop is a situation whereby existing employees are required to join a specific trade union after they have engaged in employment.

The Irish Courts have considered closed shop arrangements in a number of legal cases. The judgements suggest that employees have a right to disassociate where a closed shop arrangement is introduced and enforced against a worker already in employment (i.e. post-entry closed shop).

However, the Irish Courts have not ruled definitively on the constitutionality of either the pre-entry closed shop or the post-entry closed shop as it is applied to newly-recruited employees. In such an event, it is likely that any judgment would be informed by the Sorenson/Rasmussen case.

Redundancy Payments

 145. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received their due wages and holiday pay; the mechanisms available to them; if they are entitled to redundancy payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10526/14]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Generally, where an employment has ended and an employee is owed wages, an employee may take a case to the Rights Commissioners Service under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 in order to claim outstanding payments such as arrears of wages and payments in lieu of untaken annual leave or any public holiday benefit outstanding. Under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts, an employee who has a minimum of 13 weeks’ service with an employer is entitled to notice of termination of employment. The length of notice to which an employee is entitled is dependant on the length of service of the employee and can range between one week’s notice for an individual with less than 2 years’ service up to eight weeks’ notice for an individual with more than fifteen years’ service. Where an employer is unable to provide or does not provide the appropriate notice, then the employer may make a payment in lieu of the notice. An employee who does not receive the minimum notice entitlements may take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

  Under the Protection of Employment Act 1977, companies proposing collective redundancies must enter into consultation with the employee representatives at least 30 days before anyone receives notice of redundancy. They must also notify the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation of the proposed redundancies at least 30 days before any employee receives notice of redundancy. The consultation with the employee representatives and the notification period for the Minister can run concurrently.

  In accordance with the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2012, employees who have at least two years’ continuous service with an employer are generally entitled to a statutory redundancy payment in the event of being made redundant. The administration of the Redundancy Payments legislation is within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, who has advised that it is the responsibility of the employer to pay statutory redundancy to all eligible employees.   However, where an employer can prove to the satisfaction of the Department of Social Protection that he/she is unable to pay statutory redundancy to his/her eligible employees, that Department will make lump sum payments directly to those employees. Such payments are made from the Social Insurance Fund and result in a debt being raised against the employer which the Department of Social Protection will seek to recover.    Where an employer either fails to comply with his or her Redundancy payment obligations or where there is a dispute regarding redundancy entitlements, claims may be referred by the employee to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. There is a time limit of 52 weeks for such redundancy claims but, in certain circumstances, a claim will be considered up to two years after the redundancy at the discretion of the Tribunal and where reasonable cause is shown.

  Where an employer is legally insolvent (liquidation, receivership, bankruptcy etc.) and, as a result, defaults on payment of wages and other entitlements, an employee may be entitled to seek redress from the State under the Insolvency Payments Scheme which is operated by my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection. These payments also cover overtime, holiday pay, sick pay etc. In these circumstances, redundancy payment entitlements may also be made from the Social Insurance Fund.

  In terms of the specific case raised by the Deputy, I am informed by the Minister for Social Protection that the person in question made a claim for arrears of wages, holiday pay and minimum notice under the Insolvency Payments Scheme which is operated by that Department.   That claim was awarded and payment issued to the liquidator on 9 November 2012.   The Department of Social Protection has advised that, if the person has not received that payment from the liquidator, he should contact the liquidator’s office.

  Further, the Department of Social Protection has not received any claim for a statutory redundancy payment in respect of the person concerned.   One of the qualifying conditions for a statutory redundancy payment is that the person must have at least two years continuous service with the relevant employer.    In this case, the information supplied on the person’s insolvency scheme application indicates that he has less than 12 months service. That being the case he would not qualify for a statutory redundancy payment.

  The Information Unit of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has been restructured and expanded to form a new Workplace Relations Customer Service Section which provides information on employees’ rights and how to obtain redress if employees’ rights have been infringed, and it can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 and at website www.workplacerelations.ie

International Agreements

 146. Deputy Seán Kenny Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans for a free trade agreement between the EU and Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10594/14]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The EU and Australia formally conduct their trade and economic relations under the EU-Australia Partnership Framework of October 2008. This aims, among other trade related matters, to facilitate trade in industrial and agriculture related products between the EU and Australia by reducing technical barriers, including assessment procedures. This partnership covers dialogue about technical barriers to trade and encouraging mutual recognition of conformity assessment procedures, with the objective of reducing the costs of testing and certification of products exported to and imported from Australia.

The Framework Agreement also enables both parties to exchange information on their respective trade policies, the Free Trade Agreements they are negotiating and to build on their shared interests in mutual co-operation to strengthen and broaden the multilateral trading system through the World Trade Organisation. The Framework Agreement provides for regular dialogue on issues of mutual interest or concern that may be considered within a multilateral framework.

Since early 2012, Australia and the EU have been negotiating a formal Framework Agreement that contains a number of economic and trade cooperation provisions. I would welcome a trade agreement that provides for an expansion of trade opportunities for exporters while providing an overall stimulus to economic recovery.

However, at this time, there are no plans for negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Australia. The matter is not on the immediate work programme for the EU Commission, which is responsible for negotiating these agreements.

Exports Data

 147. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will identify and list what he expects to be the top ten growing export markets for Ireland in the medium term; the language needs of Irish businesses in respect of each of these export markets; and the actions being taken to meet the language needs of Irish businesses in this regard. [10678/14]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Government’s Review of the Trade, Tourism and Investment Strategy was launched on 24 February. This review identifies the 27 priority markets that will be the continuing and additional focus of efforts to drive export and investment opportunities. The range of target markets identified will ensure that the necessary resources and policies are devoted to both already well established export markets and to those in Asia, South America and Africa, where growth rates are likely to continue at high levels.

  The Review establishes a new approach to identifying export and investment markets that matter and where our economic recovery is happening on the basis of exports and enterprise. This approach identifies the 27 priority markets as ‘High Value Markets’ such as Europe, the U.S., Japan and China; a group of other ‘Established and Developing Markets’ such as the India, Russia, Brazil and Gulf economies; and, finally, a number of ‘Exploratory and High Potential Markets’ such as Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam and Mexico where Ireland will be looking for new opportunities in the future. Many of these markets are also ones with whom the EU is negotiating Free Trade Agreements that will accelerate the creation of new market access for exporters.

  Enterprise Ireland has already built up a vast amount of knowledge and connections right across these markets and these are a vital resource available to support its clients globalise their businesses.

  Exports to Brazil, India, Russia and China, targeted Gulf States and the Asia Pacific region. Enterprise Ireland client companies grew their exports by an impressive 70% between 2008 and 2012. While significant, this only represents about 12% of the agency’s client exports. The recalibration of export markets as set out in the Review will help accelerate growth in our exports to these regions. To this end Enterprise Ireland continues an ongoing realignment of resources to enhance delivery of client services in high growth markets, and received sanction in 2013 to add a further 20 staff to bolster resources available to client companies in fast growing markets.

  The review is an important aspect of the Winning Abroad Disruptive Reform and will ensure that the impact of State resources are maximised in priority markets, giving them and Irish companies the best possible platform to win business overseas. The new direction also re-aligns the list of priority sectors so that they dovetail with the Action Plan for Jobs.

  Enterprise Ireland works actively with Forfás and the Expert Group on Future Skills needs to identify the skills gaps its clients are facing and to effectively increase their export capacity.

In 2012, the Forfás / EGFSN Report Key Skills for Enterprise to Trade Internationally   made recommendations aimed at ensuring that education and training provision would be aligned to the international trade skills requirements of enterprise. A main recommendation was the need to boost the supply (quantity and proficiency) of foreign language skills and cultural awareness being taught at third level - for German, French, Spanish, Italian and emerging BRIC markets.

  On 27 February this year, the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, the third annual instalment in the Government plan aimed at building a sustainable growing economy and creating jobs, was published. The Action Plan for Jobs 2014 includes a priority commitment on the part of the Minister for Education to develop and publish a languages education strategy. The development of this languages strategy in 2014 is one of the ways in which the Government will support Ireland’s “winning abroad” agenda.

County and City Enterprise Boards

 148. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the current waiting lists in county enterprise boards for initial meetings for persons wishing to start their own business and for start your own business courses run by the enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [10804/14]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The information requested by the Deputy regarding waiting lists relates to operational matters within the County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) in which I have no function. However, if the Deputy has any concerns about delays being experienced by clients of any particular CEB, I would be happy to bring it to the attention of the Board in question.

The Deputy may be aware that as part of the Government Decision to reform the structure of State support for that sector the CEBs are soon to be dissolved and their existing functions will transfer to Enterprise Ireland (EI) and will be delivered, on behalf of EI, by the Local Authorities through a network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs).

The legislation to effect the reform is at an advanced stage and I anticipate that it will have successfully passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas by early March with a view to commencing the new LEO structure in early to mid-April.


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