Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Protection of intellectual property – 30th June 2015

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is satisfied as to the protection of IP, patent and copyright law here (details supplied).

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr English)

The question which the Deputy has put down, supported by accompanying documentation, relates to the ability to enforce Intellectual Property Rights in Ireland. This issue has been brought to the Minister’s direct attention and, given that the matter raised involves legal considerations, has also been the subject of advice from the office of the Attorney General.

The documentation refers to the Directive on Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights – Directive 2004/48/EC – and specifically to Articles 2 and 3 and Recital 17 thereof which, it is claimed, Ireland has failed to implement. These Articles require EU Member States to provide for measures, procedures and remedies to ensure enforcement of intellectual property rights.

The measures must be fair and equitable, not unnecessarily complicated or costly, or entail unreasonable time limits or unwarranted delay. In Ireland, the requirements under Articles 2 and 3 of the Enforcement Directive are covered by the general jurisdictional powers of the Courts and did not necessitate any specific legislative measures in Irish law.

Ireland transposed the EU Enforcement Directive in 2006 through Regulations made under the European Communities Act, 1972 entitled European Communities (Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights) Regulation 2006 – S.I. no. 360 of 2006. In the usual manner, the transposition process was completed in conjunction with advice and guidance from the Attorney General’s office.

When the Regulations transposing the Directive were effected, the Department notified these to the EU Commission in compliance with the procedures operated by the Commission for notification Ireland’s national measure implementing the Directive. Subsequently, the EU Commission examined the transposition of the Enforcement Directive in all Member States and published a Report in 2010 analysing the transposition and implementation of the Directive in all EU Member States. In its Report the Commission did not raise any issues in relation to Ireland’s transposition and implementation of the Directive.

At the heart of the complaint outlined in the documentation is the claim that enforcement of Intellectual Property rights in Ireland is very difficult because it is not possible for small firms to bring low value cases (under €15k) to court without solicitors and barristers and the associated costs which that entails.

The Deputy should be aware that the Enforcement Directive does not contain provisions dealing with the question of whether individuals, or companies, must be represented by lawyers having a right of audience when they bring proceedings to enforce their intellectual property rights. It is the case that, at present, under Irish law, the general rule is that a company must be represented in litigation before the District Court by a lawyer with a right of audience. Of course, this issue applies across the board to all cases that are litigated before the District Court and is much wider than intellectual property law.

I can assure the Deputy that I do not take lightly the matters raised in the documentation in terms of costs associated with accessing justice before the Courts, particularly for low-value claims of the nature contained in the documentation.

The Deputy will appreciate that in general, the issue of the jurisdiction of the courts and of costs associated with litigation are not aspects that come within my Department’s direct responsibility. Nonetheless, I have directed my officials to pursue the issue with officials in the relevant Department to examine options to improve the situation as it impacts on the area of intellectual property for which I have responsibility.

You will be aware also of the current passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas of the Legal Services Regulation Bill under the steerage of the Minister for Justice and Equality which is pertinent also in this area. The Bill seeks to bring about a reduction in legal professional fees which has been widely advocated. Further cost reductions in these fees will assist companies taking legal actions before the Courts to invigilate their rights.

Separately, I understand that the issue of legal representation before the District Court is an issue that has been drawn to the attention of the Company Law Review Group.

Zero hours contracts – 5th February 2015

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans regarding zero hours contracts; and the timeline for same.

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton)

I can confirm that in accordance with the Statement of Government priorities, my colleague the Minister for Business and Employment, Ged Nash TD, issued on Monday 17 November a call for tenders to carry out a study into the prevalence of zero hour and low hour contracts and the impact of such contracts on employees. The evaluation of tenders received took place recently and the successful contractor will be appointed shortly. It is expected that the study will commence in February and conclude in early Q3 of 2015.

The key objectives of the study are: to fill the gap that currently exists in terms of the hard data and information that is available concerning the prevalence of “zero hours contracts” in the Irish economy and the manner of their use; to assess the impact of “zero hours contracts” on employees; to enable the Minister to make any evidence-based policy recommendations to Government considered necessary on foot of the study.

All sectors of the economy, both public and private, will come within the scope of the study, including the retail, hospitality, education and health sectors in particular. The study will examine how zero and low hour contracts operate in practice and how they impact on employees. It will assess the advantages and disadvantages from the perspective of employer and employee and assess the current employment rights legislation as it applies to employees on such contracts. The study will also consider recent developments in other jurisdictions, including the UK in particular.

It is expected that a wide range of stakeholders will be canvassed to contribute to the study.

Benefit of the Web Summit – 28th January 2015

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of companies that have started here or expanded/moved to here as a direct result of Government and State agency contacts made during the Dublin Web Summit over the past three years.

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton)

In November 2014 over 20,000 people travelled from across the globe to attend the Dublin Web Summit where over 300 speakers took part across multiple stages, workshops and roundtables. This was Europe’s largest Tech Conference and was a significant event from the perspective of the enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my Department IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. Many of the agencies’ target client companies attend the Summit.

During the course of the 2014 Web Summit over 400 FDI jobs were announced in 8 technology firms in Dublin, Cork and Galway across a number of sectors including social media, software development and digital marketing. Indeed since 2010, over 100 high growth global companies have set up in Ireland, working in close collaboration with IDA Ireland.

In relation to companies that are supported by Enterprise Ireland, I am informed by that agency that it has recently decided to invest in a company which it met at the summit three years ago. Additionally the agency continues to be in discussion with other companies which it met at previous summits. Details of the investment and the companies have not yet been announced, and I’m sure that the Deputy will appreciate that it would inappropriate for me to go into further details at this stage.

Suffice to say, however that there is often a long lead in time between initial contacts by the enterprise development agencies and the coming to fruition of a project. As the web summits have grown in size future relocations and referrals are expected to grow. I have no doubt that the contacts made at this years and previous year’s web summits will continue to lead to jobs growth and investment in the years ahead.

Licensing for door-to-door traders – 23rd January 2015

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to introduce legislation to ensure that no one can solicit business on a doorstep without a licence.

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton)

I have no plans to introduce legislation to require door-to-door traders to be licensed. The administrative burden on legitimate door-to-door traders, and the cost to the State, that would result from such a requirement would, in my view, outweigh the potential benefits. Given the informal nature of a sizeable proportion of door-to-door trading, such a requirement would also be difficult to enforce effectively. My Department is aware of only 3 of the 28 European Union Member States, which have a licensing requirement for door-to-door traders.

The European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013 which came into operation in June 2014 have significantly strengthened the protections for consumers purchasing goods or services on a doorstep or off-premises basis. As well as giving consumers enhanced information rights, the Regulations increased from 7 to 14 days the cooling-off period within which off-premises contracts can be cancelled by the consumer, and extended the right of cancellation to contracts concluded following solicited as well as unsolicited visits to the consumer’s home or place of work. Contracts commenced but not fully performed during the cooling-off period can now also be cancelled by the consumer subject to pro-rata payment for services provided up to the point of cancellation.

How should the government fund enterprise and new business? – 11th March 2014

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide a breakdown of the total spend from his Department to Community Enterprise Centres, including funding to the National Association of Community Enterprise Centres, since the scheme was launched in 1989, broken down by year, and the corresponding number of jobs created; the number of persons in employment directly in CECs, including the NACEC; and the cost of this per annum from 2002-end 2013.

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

I understand from Enterprise Ireland that since the launch of the first Community Enterprise Centre scheme in 1989, €64 million has been invested by the agency for the development of CECs across the country. To date, there have been 4 schemes and 159 centres have been approved for financial support, of which 117 have been completed.

The question posed by the Deputy regarding the breakdown of the total spend by year requires a significant volume of information to be gathered and correlated by Enterprise Ireland and it has not been possible to provide the information within the timeframe concerned. Consequently, I will provide this information, when it is provided by Enterprise Ireland, to the Deputy as soon as possible in written format.

In January 2014, the results of a survey confirmed that CECs accommodate 1,119 companies employing 4,759. 55 of these companies are Enterprise Ireland clients and 174 are clients of the CEBs.

The NACEC is a network of the 117 community enterprise centre managers. Its primary role is to support and develop the interests of community enterprise centres on a national basis. Many centres were developed in areas of low employment and population, with the support of Enterprise Ireland, the CEBs, Local Development Groups and other local community organisations.

I understand from Enterprise Ireland that, since 2008, they contribute €10,000 to the NACEC each year to run their operations, such as website build, bi-monthly meetings, promotion and advertising and national co-ordination of the 117 CECs.

At present, there are 46 Business Development Managers in the CEC network throughout the country, which have been supported by Enterprise Ireland under the 2012 CEC Business Development Manager Scheme. I have also been informed by Enterprise Ireland that there are 16 other managers across the network, which have not been funded by Enterprise Ireland. All of these managers are part of the National Association of Community Enterprise Centres (NACEC).

The City and County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) can only fund CECs that are already being funded by Enterprise Ireland and can only fund to a maximum of 50% of the Enterprise Ireland contribution.

The detailed information sought by the Deputy is not readily available within the CEBs and its compilation, which would involve a search through over 20 years of records in each of the 35 CEBs, would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work.

Accountancy firms operating outside IAASA supervision – 15th January 2014

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his concerns relating to accountancy firms who are able to operate outside the supervision of the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority, as detailed in a recent article published by Chartered Accountants of Ireland on 4 December 2013 (details supplied).

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Only a minority of Member States of the European Union regulate all accountants by means of legislation. The majority of Member States regulate more specialist roles within the accountancy profession as is currently the case in Ireland and the UK.

Regulation of a profession or professional activity is subject to European regulations concerning mutual recognition. The future Professional Qualifications Directive (expected to enter into force this year) will require Member States to provide justification for the reasons for each regulated profession in the country.

There are varying perspectives on both sides of the debate regarding the regulation of the term “Accountant”. In view of this, I have asked my officials to re-examine the issues involved and a public consultation on this matter will take place over the coming months.

I am aware that other unregulated professions dealt with the same issue by actively advertising to consumers the benefits of dealing with members of professional bodies only. The professional bodies may wish to consider raising public awareness through media advertising or through the contacts, websites and professional networks of their large membership base.

Government focus on new financing models for SMEs – 4th December 2013

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on whether it would be more efficient for the Government from a time and cost point of view to direct money ring fenced for investment in small and medium enterprises, in cooperation with private funds, in to new financing models such as peer to peer funding.

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

The Action Plan for Jobs 2013 sets out a range of commitments with regard to access to finance, including a commitment to investigate the potential for alternative funding mechanisms including peer to peer lending, supply chain finance and crowdfunding. Along with supporting the more traditional models of financing, this would support the need for a broad and diversified range of financing mechanisms.  This is in recognition of the need for a mix of instruments to address the various types of company operating in Ireland and also the various growth phases of a company.

The individual financing instruments should not be seen in isolation, but as a potential set of interacting policies.  Therefore, it is my view that this is not an ‘either/or’ scenario.

However, in terms of costs for supporting the alternative financing mechanisms, it must be borne in mind that value for money and a strong justification for State intervention is a key consideration.  As many of the alternative forms of financing are relatively new and are only currently establishing a presence in Ireland, I am inclined to consider the various available options prior to intervening with taxpayers’ money in an effort to boost take up. Private sector initiatives have their place, and do not always necessarily require Government funding to be kick-started.

If Government funding is directed towards these types of funding models in the future, careful design of any intervention along with monitoring and evaluation will be required to ensure the optimal intended results are achieved.

The cost of the seed and venture capital scheme – 4th December 2013

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the cost of running the seed and venture capital scheme to date; and the cost of similar schemes.

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

The Irish seed and venture capital sector is a critical element of the funding environment supporting entrepreneurship and the creation of jobs in Ireland.  Along with taking equity stakes in companies, the State has invested heavily in stimulating the Venture Capital sector.

Three programmes have been run since 1994 and a fourth programme of €175m was announced by the Government as part of Budget 2013 for the period 2013 – 2018.

The Seed and Venture Capital Scheme’s document, as with all Scheme documents under the Industrial Development Acts, are approved by both the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. This document gives Enterprise Ireland the legal authority to administer the Scheme. Enterprise Ireland in consultation with my Department determine the relevant thresholds and criteria for each call for expressions of interest under the Scheme as they are issued.

Enterprise Ireland staff manage the due diligence, investment process and back office functions that are required to manage the commitments the Government makes to Funds through the Seed and Venture Capital Schemes.  When making commitments to venture capital funds, the State invests on a ‘pari passu’ basis with the private sector, equally sharing the risks and rewards.

However, all of the various initiatives are independently managed by the private sector that make all decisions regarding investments in line with their strategy and the market opportunities they identify.

The Seed and Venture Capital Scheme, the Development Capital Scheme, and Innovation Fund Ireland all form part of the suite of finance measures put in place through the Action Plan for Jobs to increase the availability of funding for SMEs and all operate under Schemes.

The Gambling sector and Enterprise Ireland -12th March 2013

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason Enterprise Ireland does not support companies that operate in the gambling sector including high-tech companies that earn their revenues from online betting, betting exchange, gambling, competitive social gaming and tipping markets.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason that companies that earn their revenue from supplying products and services that operate in the gambling sector are not supported by Enterprise Ireland.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider changing the remit of Enterprise Ireland to facilitate Irish initiated or Irish based tech companies that operate in online betting, betting exchange, gambling, competitive social gaming and tipping markets or companies that earn their revenue from supplying products and services that operate in the gambling sector.

Reply

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

I propose to take Question numbers 285, 286 and 287 together.

The Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 and the Betting Act 1931 set out the current legal framework for the operation of gambling or betting operations. It is an offence under section 4 of the 1956 Act to promote or assist in the promotion of any kind of gaming or to provide facilities for any kind of gaming. Separately, it is an offence to operate as a bookmaker, or carry on business of a bookmaker, without a licence under the 1931 Act.

Within that legal framework Enterprise Ireland (EI) is precluded from supporting companies that operate in the gambling sector, which includes all companies that earn their revenues from online betting, betting exchange, gambling, competitive social gaming and tipping markets. EI can provide limited support to Financial Spread-Betting Companies (FSB)/ Contracts for Difference (CFD) providers, only if these companies are regulated by a Financial Services Regulatory Authority. EI does support companies that earn revenue from supplying products or services to companies in the gambling sector (provided the earnings are not directly linked to amounts gambled).

It is anticipated that two legislative proposals will significantly change the legislative and regulatory landscape. The Deputy will be aware that, in July 2012, the Minster for Finance published the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2012 which is designed to ensure a fair and equal treatment of all bookmakers and betting exchanges offering services in Ireland and will bring into the licensing and taxation regime all remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries (betting exchanges). The Minister for Justice and Equality has also announced plans to bring Heads of a Bill, provisionally entitled the Gambling Control Bill, to Government soon. The ‘Gambling Control Bill’ is envisaged to be a comprehensive measure, establishing a transparent regulatory regime to cover betting and gaming, whether by terrestrial or remote means and will include gambling on virtual and actual events.

I am very aware that innovation is a key feature of the gaming, betting and gambling industry; new forms are constantly emerging such as betting exchanges, which permit people to bet amongst themselves, without the need for a bookmaker. Obviously, my Department will review, in conjunction with EI, the current policy on supporting companies that operate in the gambling sector when the above two proposed pieces of legislation have been enacted.

Companies imposing charges for the use of particular payment methods – 19th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) charge €3.75 per bill for non direct debit payments of bills; if it is illegal to fine persons for choosing a particular method of payment where no financial justification is found for the charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

My Department’s consultation paper of September 2012 on Article 19 (Fees for the use of means of payment) and Article 22 (Additional payments) of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Right gives details of payment charges applied by a number of traders, including the charge referred to in the details supplied by the Deputy.

Article 52(3) of Directive 2007/64/EC on Payment Services in the Internal Market states that a ‘payment service provider shall not prevent the payee from requesting a charge or from offering a reduction for the use of a given payment instrument.’ Article 52(3) gave Member States discretion to ‘forbid or limit the right to request charges taking into account the need to encourage competition and forbid the use of efficient payment instruments’. Ireland, in common with 12 other Member States including Germany and the United Kingdom, chose not to give effect to this option. Accordingly, it is not unlawful per se for traders in Ireland to impose charges on consumers for the use of a particular method of payment.

Article 19 of Directive 2011/83/EU provides that Member States ‘shall prohibit traders from charging consumers in respect of the use of a given means of payment, fees that exceed the cost borne by the trader for the use of such means.’ Though this Article does not prohibit payment charges as such, it aims to ensure that such charges reflect the real cost of payment instruments to the trader and are not used as a source of additional revenue.

Shortly after the adoption of the Directive, I stated my intention to give early effect to the provisions of Article 19 and Article 22. To this end, my Department issued the consultation paper on the implementation of the two Articles referred to above. One of the issues raised by the consultation has required my Department to seek legal advice from the Attorney General and the European Commission. Subject to the satisfactory resolution of the legal issue concerned, it remains my intention to give early effect to Articles 19 and 22.

Support for Irish based online betting companies – 14th Febraury 2013

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline Enterprise Ireland’s strategy for supporting Irish initiated or Irish based tech companies that operate in online betting, betting exchange, gambling, competitive social gaming and tipping markets, or that earn revenue from such activities.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Enterprise Ireland does not support companies that operate in the gambling sector – which includes all companies which earn their revenues from online betting, betting exchange, gambling, competitive social gaming and tipping markets.

According to the policies applied by Enterprise Ireland, no financial or soft supports are offered to companies in the gaming/betting sector (unregulated entities or companies operating under the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956 or the Betting Act 1931 (as amended)).

Limited grant-only funding can be approved for Financial Spread-Betting Companies (FSB)/ Contracts for Difference (CFD) providers, only if these companies are regulated by a Financial Services Regulatory Authority. Such financial support is restricted to R&D financial assistance and Feasibility supports that relate to the building of the company’s technical capabilities.

Enterprise Ireland does support companies that earn revenue from supplying products or services to companies in the gambling sector (provided the earnings are not directly linked to amounts gambled). There may be rare situations where a company in the gambling sector also operates in another sector, whether through a “ring-fenced” unit or subsidiary, and provided this other activity is one of the eligible activities permitted under the Industrial Development Acts, Enterprise Ireland may provide support for these other activities and the persons employed in that unit or subsidiary.

Given the very narrow scope of intervention which Enterprise Ireland can pursue legally and in line with policy, the strategy in place for supporting companies in these sectors is to work with Irish companies where the primary activity is the development for sale on world markets of new technologies (or the products and services associated with these new technologies), within the confines of legislation and policy.

Employment practices in the civil service – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

I have employed two retired public servants as Civilian Drivers (each at a cost to the Department of €36,499 per annum). These appointments were made following selection interviews from a shortlist of candidates who had submitted unsolicited applications to my Office.

In addition in my Department there is one re-appointed former Assistant Principal post sanctioned by the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform. This is in connection with Departmental issues associated with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. The reappointment is for the period 25/10/12 – 31/7/13 and is at the first point on the Assistant Principal pay scale of €61,966 per annum (pro rata). The total cost to my Department for the period of the reappointment is €51,856.69.

The above appointments were made on the basis of the relevant salary for the posts, with abatement as appropriate of public sector pensions in payment.

More generally, recruitment to my Department is undertaken by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) through competitions advertised in the public press save where, exceptionally, a business need exists to re-engage an individual with specialised skills, and sanction must be obtained in such cases from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, as in the case with the Assistant Principal post referred to above.

Financing for angel investors – 16th January 2013

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is investigating the use of the Common Strategic Framework Funds that is the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund in developing co-investment funds specifically targeting angel investors, as is being promoted by the European Commission and European Investment Bank.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is considering developing co-investment funds, as in the UK and other countries, to address the seed/early stage financing gap and help develop the angel investment market.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

I propose taking questions 390 and 391 together.

I am aware of the co-investment funds that are being launched by the European Investment Bank (EIB) through the European Investment Fund (EIF) and are also being promoted by the European Commission. These funds are specifically targeted at further leveraging the investments of business angels into SMEs. The EIF launched a pilot of this Scheme in Germany and has recently launched an initiative in Spain. Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Finance have met with the relevant EIF executives in November to specifically discuss this initiative and my officials and Enterprise Ireland are in the process of assessing the feasibility of working with the EIF to leverage the European Angels Fund in the Irish market.

Enterprise Ireland and IntertradeIreland fund the HALO business angel partnership programme that is mandated to match business angels to appropriate projects which they would be interested in. HALO also works to develop business angel syndicates. Considerable effort has been put into addressing the seed and early stage funding gap indirectly through commitments to venture capital funds and directly through Enterprise Ireland’s investment in 150 early stage Competitive Start Fund and High Potential Start-Up companies in 2012. A similar level of activity is forecast for 2013.

My officials have monitored the development of the UK Government’s Angel co-investment funds. While the policy has not been replicated in totality the establishment of the four seed funds under the Seed and Venture Capital Scheme 2007-2012 has resulted in the Seed Funds acting as co-investment partners in deals involving business angels achieving similar objectives. As previously noted my officials are actively looking at the feasibility of working with the EIF and their Angel Fund programme.

Visa programmes -18th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline any visa programmes available to senior executives coming to work in foreign owned companies based here, including uptake numbers of these programmes in 2011 and 2012.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Since 2004, Irish labour market policy has been to ensure that general labour and skills needs are met from within the workforce of the European Economic Area (EEA). Current Government policy is to issue employment permits for the employment of non-EEA nationals for specific vacancies and in response to employer demand for strategic skills and labour shortages in designated occupations in key economic sectors such as healthcare, information technology and financial services.

A range of employment permits initiatives have been put in place to address this skills issue and to assist foreign companies based in Ireland. The Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit Scheme in particular, facilitates the transfer of senior management, key personnel or trainees who are foreign nationals from an overseas branch of a multinational corporation to its Irish branch. Only 5% of the workforce may have Intra-company Transfer Permits, however, for start-ups this may be waived on a case by case basis for an initial period. No labour market needs test is required prior to making an application for an Intra-Company Transfer permit.
The Green Card Employment Permit Scheme is used by Ireland to meet labour market requirements where skills shortages have been identified by reference to analyses undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. It is designed to attract highly skilled and highly paid individuals into the labour market with the aim of encouraging them to take up permanent residence in the State. The employee may apply for immediate family re-unification and an application for long-term residence may be made after two years. No labour market needs test (e.g. newspaper and FÁS/EURES advertising) is required prior to making an application. Their Spouses are also eligible to apply for permits under our Spousal/Dependant Employment Permit Scheme.

The Work Permits Employment Permit Scheme provides for a further channel for employers and prospective employees to source and transfer skills.

When considering applications under any of these Schemes, cognisance is given to the strategic imperative of the missions of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, with priority being afforded to their clients. The numbers of permits issued under all of these Schemes is detailed in Appendix 1.

In addition to the above, my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality this year announced new Immigrant Investor and Start-up Entrepreneur Programmes. The purpose of these Programmes is to allow non-EEA nationals, who commit to an approved investment in Ireland or with an innovative business idea for a High Potential Start-up, to enter the State with a view to establishing a permanent relationship with Ireland.

Further information on all of these Schemes and Programmes can be found on my Department’s website and that of the Department of Justice and Equality.

I hope to be in a position shortly to announce a range of improvements which will greatly enhance the employment permits regime to ensure company growth is not hampered by skills shortages. These improvements will include a streamlining of the documentary requirements, significant reductions in processing times and improved customer service and public information.

My Department is also currently preparing new legislation, the purpose of which will be to consolidate and streamline the Employment Permits Act 2003 and the Employment Permits Act 2006. The legislation will:
· update provisions for the employment permits schemes in line with policy and economic developments since 2007;
· provide the flexibility to deal with changing labour market conditions and work patterns and our evolving economic development needs which often require a rapid response;
· provide for a robust employment permits regime with greater clarity for applicants; and
· cater for the accession of new Member States to the EU.

Appendix 1

Permits issued up to the 17th December 2012

The regulation of shop opening hours – 11th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has any jurisdiction over store opening hours, for example Sundays or on St. Stephen’s Day.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

The law on trading hours of shops is the Shops (Hours of Trading) Act 1938. This Act was introduced for the purpose of controlling competition in the retail sector through the making of regulations which controlled the closing time for shops in specific areas and for specific sectors.

A Statutory Instrument was made in 1938 (S.I. No. 188 of 1938) which exempts the whole country from any restrictions on Sunday trading. I have been made aware of some limited opening of shops on public holidays but I have no powers under the Act to close shops completely on specific days. Neither can I regulate trading hours on public holidays such as St. Stephen’s Day under the Act.

There is however protection for employees under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. Under this Act, employees have rights in respect of nine public holidays during the year. The options open to employees who have to work on public holidays are an additional day’s pay or a paid day off within a month of the day or an additional day of paid annual leave.

Is geothermal energy a priority – 4th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is considering adding geothermal energy as a priority area in the National Research Prioritisation Exercise.

Reply

The Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Sean Sherlock)

The recommendations of the Report of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group, as adopted by Government Decision on February 21st 2012, were made within the context of a 5 year time-frame. I personally chair the Research Prioritisation Action Group tasked with driving implementation of the recommendations in the report and a primary focus of our agenda is to target support towards the 14 priority areas identified as offering the greatest opportunity in terms of economic and societal impact. Implementation is still in the early stages and we still have some way to go to bed down prioritisation fully. In this context and for the moment at least, consideration is not being given to adding to the list of 14 priority areas.

However, as the Deputy may be aware, Marine Renewable Energy is one of the 14 priority areas with a focus on positioning Ireland as a research, development and innovation hub for the deployment of marine renewable energy technologies and services. Along with a number of other priority areas (e.g. Food for Health, Sustainable Food Production and Processing, Smart Grids and Smart Cities) the focus on Marine Renewable Energy will serve simultaneously to generate enterprise, improve quality of life and help meet legally binding obligations. This will help sustain and promote our reputation as a ‘green economy’ ensuring the economy is competitive, inclusive and provides a high standard of living with lower environmental impacts.

The Deputy may also be aware of the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) which is an industry led, world-leading, collaborative programme of research and innovation in integrated sustainable energy system technologies.  The IERC was established in April 2010 with a commitment to provide €20m funding from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and is located at the Tyndall National Institute, based in Cork.   The IERC brings together international companies and researchers in the energy space, leveraging research capabilities and technologies to find commercial solutions to the global energy demand challenge.

Ireland’s trade relationship with Turkey – 17th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to expand Ireland’s trade relationship with Turkey.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Turkey is a significant market for Irish goods and services. Merchandise exports to Turkey have been developing strongly in recent years and in 2011 were worth over €457 million. In 2010 our services exports increased by 23% over the previous year and were worth €374 million.

Trade Missions are a key instrument to promote growing trade opportunities in Turkey. In March of this year, Minister Costello led a delegation of 25 Enterprise Ireland companies to Istanbul and Ankara. Companies participating in this mission were drawn from sectors with particular growth potential in Turkey, in particular, ICT and telecoms, engineering, energy, financial services and life sciences. The trade mission also involved an intensive schedule of meetings with leaders of both public and private sector organisations, sectors that offer rich opportunities for Irish companies.

On a day to day basis, Enterprise Ireland actively supports Irish companies with a range of initiatives to build market awareness and accelerate sales growth into Turkey. The agency brokers relationships between Irish companies and key contacts in Turkey, and supports and encourages companies to recognise that market as an increasingly important destination for exports. In addition, Enterprise Ireland has built up an extensive network of local contacts and has developed a team of highly experienced pathfinders who work with their clients on a one to one basis to give specialised and company specific advice to individual exporters.

A technology visa to recruit skilled workers – 3rd July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the possibility of establishing a visa scheme specific to persons working in the technology and related sectors, which will have specific criteria for admission so that it will not be open to abuse but will allow Irish companies and foreign technology companies investing here to recruit the necessary skilled personnel from abroad.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits in respect of jobs requiring key skills and where there is a recognised scarcity of suitably skilled workers. A significant range of job categories within the technology and related sectors are eligible across the employment permit schemes. The issue of any employment permit is predicated on a job offer from a prospective Irish employer who has made every effort to recruit an Irish or EEA national for the post. In considering applications the Department takes cognisance of applications submitted with the support of the IDA.

For specified highly skilled and strategically important occupations, where a skills shortage exists, Green Card employment permits may be issued. The Green Card permit is issued to the employee and allows his or her employment in the State by the named employer in the occupation specified on the permit. It may be issued for a period of two years. The employee may apply for immediate family re-unification and an application for long-term residence may be made after two years. No labour market needs test (e.g. newspaper and FÁS/EURES advertising) is required prior to making an application. Sensibly, it is a requirement that no more than 50% of staff employed by a company in Ireland may be employment permits holders.

The Department also operates an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) scheme. This scheme is designed to facilitate the transfer of senior management, key personnel or trainees who are foreign nationals from an overseas branch of a multinational corporation to its Irish branch. Only 5% of the workforce may have ICT Permits. However for startups this may be waived on a case by case basis for an initial period. No labour market needs test is required in respect of an application for an Intra-Company Transfer permit. Certain criteria apply in the case of ICTs.

Application forms and information in relation to the criteria that apply in the case of all employment permit types including green cards and ICTs are available on my Department’s website.

The Government has no plans at present to lift employment permits restrictions for non-EU nationals nor is there evidence that the current policy impedes inward investment. Visas are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The number of staff in the redeployment pool – Tuesday, 26th June  2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of persons in his Department’s redeployment pool, including agencies responsible to it, that is, those persons who are to be redeployed as their current role is no longer necessary, but have not been redeployed as of yet.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Currently, my Department has two staff in the redeployment pool and there are no further staff waiting to be redeployed.  Since the beginning of 2011, nineteen staff transferred out of my Department on redeployment.  The maximum period of time that a staff member has been waiting for redeployment was approximately two months.

The Employment Control Framework (ECF) requires my Department to reduce staff numbers year on year until the end of 2015.  At this point staff numbers in my Department are in line with targets set under the ECF programme and I am confident that the end of year target will be met.

As this is a day to day matter for the Agencies, I have asked the Agencies under the aegis of my Department to respond directly to the Deputies.

Details of Ireland’s trade relationship with Iran – 22nd February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide details of the current trade relationship with Iran, goods imported and exported and their individual value.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

According to Central Statistics Office published data, in 2010 (the latest full year in respect of which country-specific trade statistics are available) Ireland exported €82m worth of goods to Iran.

The four most significant categories were,
General Industrial Machinery and equipment etc. – €15.1m,
Medical and Pharmaceutical products – €14.4m,
Miscellaneous edible products and preparations – €12.4m,
Other transport equipment- €10.3m.

In 2010, Ireland imported goods to value of €5m from that country.
There are no recorded Exports or Imports of Services with Iran during that year.

Problems with specialised employment visas – 22nd February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that changes in relation to the employee permit scheme for non-Irish persons working here means that specialised staff can no longer move from one company to another on the same permit but must now request a new permit which can cause hiring delays for companies for example the restaurant industry for as long as three months while potential employees wait for new permits.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006.
All employment permits are employer and location specific.  Accordingly, if an employment permit holder wishes to change employer then a new application will have to be made on their behalf.  There are no restrictions on foreign nationals who are the holders of current valid employment permits changing employer and the need for a Labour Market Test would not apply in such cases.  However, in the event that a foreign national ceases to be employed by the employer named on the permit then the permit is no longer valid and must be returned to my Department for cancellation.

The Employment Permits Section has no record of current valid employment permits in respect of the named individuals and, in these circumstances, the current policy in relation to new first time applications would apply.

It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:
· highly skilled, highly paid positions or;
· non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or;
· positions requiring specialist or scarce skills, expertise or qualifications which cannot be filled elsewise.

In line with this policy, applications for new work permits are subject to a strict labour market needs test intended to maximise opportunities for filling of vacancies from within the Irish labour market and wider EEA.

Electronic data storage – 18th January 2012,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if any electronic data is stored in a commercially operated data centre.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

I understand that my Department does not store electronic data in a commercially operated data centre. Day to day electronic communications may be routed through various systems, including commercial data systems, while in transit. Specifically, my Department’s email communications are routed through a commercial email filtering service which can block potential spam emails and retain them for a period of time until they are either released by the intended recipient or deleted.

In relation to the Offices under the aegis of my Department, I understand that while the majority of electronic data is held internally across my Department’s ICT infrastructure, or in shared hosting centres provided by other Departments, some electronic data is held in commercially operated data centres.

The Companies Registration Office uses an external commercial hosting service, in Ireland, to temporarily hold data for their bulk-data customers to download. The data is deleted after a fortnight on an on-going basis.

The Labour Court uses an external commercial hosting service, in Ireland, to host its website including information relating to recommendations in respect of cases referred to the Court under various types of employment legislation.

Both the Companies Registration Office and the Labour Court use ISO27001 certified hosting facilities.

The website of the Employment Appeals Tribunal is hosted in a secured hosting environment also in an Irish data centre.  The data is used by the website to publicly list determinations issued by the Tribunal following completion of a hearing. The data is rendered anonymous by the Employment Appeals Tribunal prior to its transfer to the data centre.

EU directive on temporary agency workers – 15th December 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the EU Directive on temporary agency workers (2008/14/EC) is due to be transposed into Irish law.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

European Directive 2008/104/EC on Temporary Agency Work was adopted in 2008 with a transposition date of 5 December 2011.  A central aim of the Directive is to ensure protection of temporary agency workers by applying the principle of equal treatment in their basic working and employment conditions.

Earlier this week, Government approved the publication of a Bill entitled Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Bill 2011 to transpose the provisions of the Directive and the Bill will be published this week.  This is one of the priority Bills for my Department and the intention is to progress the Bill to early enactment in the Houses of the Oireachtas in the new parliamentary session in 2012.

When enacted, the Bill will, with the exception of the provisions that create offences, have retrospective effect to 5 December, 2011.

This means that with effect from 5 December 2011, temporary agency workers employed by employment agencies and assigned to work with a hirer, are entitled to equal treatment in basic working and employment conditions in the same way as if they were directly recruited by the hirer to the same job.  My Department has engaged with the representatives of Employment Agencies and hirer undertakings with a view to making appropriate arrangements to ensure that equal treatment is given effect  from 5 December, 2011 in respect of all temporary agency workers.

Supports of companies in the transport safety market – 29th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to any structural or financial supports available for new companies operating in the transport safety market (details supplied).

(www.telltail.ie is at the prototype stage with a product that transforms rear vehicle licence plates in to safety and emergency communication devices. An Garda Siochana have already expressed an interest, as have the motor industry, and the founders were wondering if the Department could assist in any way or if they would be interested in discussing the potential applications of such a product.)

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if structural or financial supports are available for new technology companies operating in the automobile safety market.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

I propose to take Questions  214 and   216 together.

My Department provides funding to the enterprise development agencies under its aegis, including Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs), through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

Enterprise Ireland is always available to support new innovative business propositions that have the potential to generate employment and grow sales on international markets.  Enterprise Ireland has a structured series of supports to assist the new entrepreneur to:

· Validate the business proposition.  The agency gives advice to promoters to help them to formulate an outline plan for a business that has the potential to develop to a significant scale.
· Get to investment-ready. The agency provides feasibility grants and mentor supports to assist new businesses to get to the initial funding round.
· Raise the initial investment required.  The agency makes equity investments into new businesses by co-investing with the promoters and the private sector in the initial funding round.

Full details of the supports available are on the Enterprise Ireland website at: www.enterprise-ireland.com/en

I understand that the project referred to by the Deputy is located in South Cork.  In this region the South Cork Enterprise Board is available to provide a source of support for micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level.  Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing micro-enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of priming, expansion/development and feasibility/innovation grants.  Whilst not all businesses will be eligible for financial assistance, the CEBs also deliver non-financial supports such as one-to-one mentoring and a range of business advice and training programmes to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow, which may be available as appropriate to the needs of the promoter’s business.

Specifically in relation to the project referred to by the Deputy, I am informed that the South Cork Enterprise Board met with the promoter in 2010 to discuss the project invention. The Board did offer mentoring assistance with the view that the promoters might develop the concept into a full application for CEB support.  However, this offer was not taken up and the promoters have not been in contact with the Board since.  I would therefore suggest that the promoters maintain contact with their local CEB as appropriate to explore the options available to assist their business as it develops.

A proposal to establish links with Silicon Valley – 29th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on a recent proposal to help entrepreneurs in establishing formal links with incubator and accelerator programmes in Silicon Valley (details supplied).

(As per the letter I sent to Minister Bruton on 22.11.11)

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

The importance of helping entrepreneurs to establish a base in Silicon Valley is fully appreciated and to this end, Enterprise Ireland has nine incubator spaces in its Mountain View office in Silicon Valley seven of which are currently let.  The availability of these incubator spaces is of particular relevance to those Irish companies establishing a sales presence on the West Coast of the US.

Enterprise Ireland is interested in all proposals that can add value to Irish companies on the US West Coast.  In this context EI continue to evaluate the services of Plug & Play and direct EI clients to their facilities if they can help the client through accelerating their time to market, commercialisation or acquisition of VC Funding.

Through its office in Mountain View, the agency has an ongoing relationship with the Plug & Play organisation and has, for a number of years, recommended that Irish companies looking to incubate or source funding from Silicon Valley sources meet with them, among others.

Plug & Play’s offer is highly sophisticated, and it is the largest incubator player in Silicon Valley.  Plug & Play is also a significant investor in current and past tenants and I understand that its proposal is aimed at nations or regions that do not have either a Trade Office or an Embassy Trade Attaché function in Silicon Valley.  Enterprise Ireland already provide a significant amount of the commercialisation, mentoring, signposting and VC connections that would otherwise be part of the Plug & Play Proposal.

US venture capital participation can be demanding, and may require a company placing its CEO or CIO into the US for an extended period, something Irish companies can rarely afford or want.  Plug & Play has a vested interest in identifying, mentoring, fostering and ultimately investing in Irish Software companies that it would take into an International Programme.  Therefore, the Plug & Play proposal may not be appropriate for all Irish companies.

I know that Deputy Murphy has already been in contact with Enterprise Ireland’s office in Silicon Valley and they would be happy to engage further with him as appropriate on this matter.

The Minister’s opinion on Ireland as a start-up hub – 18th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his position regarding key recommendation 9.8 of the Report of the Innovation Task Force on launching a marketing campaign to promote Ireland as a start-up hub for innovation and export-oriented companies.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Recommendation 9.8 of the report of the Innovation task Force proposed the launch of a marketing campaign, initially on a pilot basis, to promote Ireland as an excellent location for starting innovative export-oriented companies.

I will shortly be making an announcement about an initiative to attract overseas entrepreneurs to come to Ireland to set up a new company here or develop an innovative idea or service.

I believe that the contribution of foreign entrepreneurs to the Irish economic recovery effort is a resource with considerable potential. Entrepreneurs, not currently living in Ireland, can be encouraged to bring their ideas and entrepreneurial drive to Ireland, and establish an enterprise here. The entrepreneurs may be of the Irish diaspora who are returning to Ireland, non-Irish who have been resident here and subsequently returned home, or indeed people with no previous connection to Ireland. In time, these companies have the potential to develop to become a source of wealth and job creation for this economy.

This initiative will be one more step in orienting Ireland as a start-up hub for innovation and export-oriented companies.

Entrepreneurial tax credit – 18th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his position regarding supporting recommendation 9.5 of the Report of the Innovation Task Force on introducing an Entrepreneurial Tax Credit.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his position regarding supporting recommendation 9.6 of the Report of the Innovation Task Force on introducing Founder Share Options which are eligible only for CGT treatment.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

I propose taking questions    210    and    211    together.

As specified in the report of the Innovation Task Force the Minister for Finance is the lead actor for follow up on these recommendations, as with all recommendations regarding tax.

My Department works closely with the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners, Forfás, IDA, Enterprise Ireland and industry representative organisations in developing tax policy proposals to support enterprise, promote the creation of jobs and to encourage and support innovation.   The following principles underpin the elaboration of tax proposals brought forward from the perspective of my Department and its agencies:

  • Entrepreneurs should have the incentive to set-up new businesses;
  • Early stage risky yet high potential start-up companies should be able to attract sufficient risk capital;
  • The tax system should encourage job creation by companies; and
  • Individuals should have a financial incentive to enter and stay within the workforce.

As is usual my Department engages annually in discussions in the Tax Strategy Group on the optimal tax package for the following year’s budget, and this is being undertaken for the 2012 Budget.

Consultancy fees to be spent by the department – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Proposed expenditure by my Department, its Offices and Agencies on Value for Money consultancy exercises in 2011 is €119,000.

Agency workers legislation – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the agency workers regulation legislation; and if he is engaging with, or consulting agencies as the legislation is being drafted.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

The EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers (2008/14/EC) is due to be transposed into Irish law by 5 December 2011 and my Department is working to meet this deadline.  A central aim of the Directive is to ensure protection of temporary agency workers by applying the principle of equal treatment in their basic working and employment conditions.

Of course a key feature of the Directive, is that it provides the possibility for the social partners, at the national level, to conclude an agreement which would, while respecting the necessary protections to be afforded to agency workers, allow for some variation in the application of the equal treatment principle such as in relation to the operation of a “qualifying period” before equal treatment would apply.

My Department is currently engaged with the national social partners in discussions on the possibility of concluding a framework agreement in time to meet the legislative deadline and I am pleased that these discussions are very constructive.  Given the tight legislative timeframe of 5 December 2011, there are considerable pressures to conclude these discussions and it is my sincere hope that agreement can be achieved between both sides.  Government places considerable value on agreement being reached with the national social partners on this issue given the very difficult labour market challenges currently facing this country and the need for all of us to play our part in improving our competitiveness in the global market with every measure possible to sustain existing jobs and grow employment.  This ability for Irish businesses to be able to compete in the global marketplace is particularly relevant given that in the UK, our leading trading partner, a 12-week “qualifying period” before equal treatment is accorded to agency workers has been agreed.

A public consultation on the transposition of the EU Directive on temporary agency work into national law was undertaken by my Department in October 2010 and this  drew responses from a number of stakeholders and interested parties, inrecommendations regarding tax.

My Department works closely with the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners, Forfás, IDA, Enterprise Ireland and industry representative organisations in developing tax policy proposals to support enterprise, promote the creation of jobs and to encourage and support innovation.   The following principles underpin the elaboration of tax proposals brought forward from the perspective of my Department and its agencies:

  • Entrepreneurs should have the incentive to set-up new businesses;
  • Early stage risky yet high potential start-up companies should be able to attract sufficient risk capital;
  • The tax system should encourage job creation by companies; and
  • Individuals should have a financial incentive to enter and stay within the workforce.

As is usual my Department engages annually in discussions in the Tax Strategy Group on the optimal tax package for the following year’s budget, and this is being undertaken for the 2012 Budget.

Consultancy fees to be paid by the department – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

Proposed expenditure by my Department, its Offices and Agencies on Value for Money consultancy exercises in 2011 is €119,000.

Agency workers legislation – October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the agency workers regulation legislation; and if he is engaging with, or consulting agencies as the legislation is being drafted.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

The EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers (2008/14/EC) is due to be transposed into Irish law by 5 December 2011 and my Department is working to meet this deadline.  A central aim of the Directive is to ensure protection of temporary agency workers by applying the principle of equal treatment in their basic working and employment conditions.

Of course a key feature of the Directive, is that it provides the possibility for the social partners, at the national level, to conclude an agreement which would, while respecting the necessary protections to be afforded to agency workers, allow for some variation in the application of the equal treatment principle such as in relation to the operation of a “qualifying period” before equal treatment would apply.

My Department is currently engaged with the national social partners in discussions on the possibility of concluding a framework agreement in time to meet the legislative deadline and I am pleased that these discussions are very constructive.  Given the tight legislative timeframe of 5 December 2011, there are considerable pressures to conclude these discussions and it is my sincere hope that agreement can be achieved between both sides.  Government places considerable value on agreement being reached with the national social partners on this issue given the very difficult labour market challenges currently facing this country and the need for all of us to play our part in improving our competitiveness in the global market with every measure possible to sustain existing jobs and grow employment.  This ability for Irish businesses to be able to compete in the global marketplace is particularly relevant given that in the UK, our leading trading partner, a 12-week “qualifying period” before equal treatment is accorded to agency workers has been agreed.

A public consultation on the transposition of the EU Directive on temporary agency work into national law was undertaken by my Department in October 2010 and this  drew responses from a number of stakeholders and interested parties, including from a number of recruitment agencies.  In the case of a number of respondents, follow-up meetings have taken place with officials of my Department to provide more indepth information to inform the preparation of the draft legislation.  Contact in this regard with key stakeholders is ongoing.

In terms of progressing the legislation, it is my intention, very shortly, to seek Government approval for the formal drafting of the Scheme of a Bill to transpose the Directive that will be capable of taking on board the outcome of the discussions with the national social partners as earlier described, if these are successful.

Clud computing is not protected by the USA Patriot Act – 7th July 2011,

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the managing director of a company [Microsoft UK] has admitted that cloud data is not protected against the USA Patriot Act and his plans to raise this at EU level with the Commissioner.

Reply

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Richard Bruton):

My attention had not been drawn to the specific comments of the UK company MD to which the deputy refers. However, I am aware that the Irish equivalent company point out that cloud data is not in any different position than any other kind of data in terms of its exposure to government access, whether by the US or many other countries.

A recent report by ENISA, the EU body responsible for information security concluded that holding data in the cloud could represent both a risk and a protection in that the concentrations of data may be an attractive target but the economies of scale can allow defenses to be more robust. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has pointed out that robust EU and national data protection laws must be complied with and that the legislation is technology neutral and must be complied with equally when data is moved to the cloud.

Ireland is extremely well-placed to take advantage of the rapidly-growing international potential of cloud computing. A recent report commissioned by Microsoft has estimated that by 2014 the cloud computing industry in Ireland could be worth €9.5billion and employ 8,600 people. Now more than ever we must do everything we can to seize opportunities like this. I do not believe that these jobs will be created automatically, and government must act decisively and urgently if we are to position Ireland as a world leader in this high-growth sector. In May I announced the establishment of a €5million applied research centre in cloud computing, which will bring industry and researchers in this sector together in order to turn good ideas into good jobs

I have also established a cross-Government implementation group on cloud computing, to support the implementation of the ambitious Programme for Government commitment on cloud computing.