Written answers

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation

Economic Competitiveness

9:00 pm

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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Question 134: To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is satisfied that a free and fair market exists for cement in this country; his views on the cost differential per tonne for cement supplied to the Irish market and the cost per tonne at which the same cement is exported to the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8829/12]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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One of the objectives of the Competition Act 2002 is to prohibit activities which prevent, distort or restrict competition in trade in the State. In that context, the Competition Authority is the statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State. Section 29 (3) of the Competition Act 2002 provides that the Authority is independent in the performance of its functions while under section 30(1)(b) of that Act, the Competition Authority is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of the Act. Persons who have concerns that anti-competitive practices are being undertaken should bring their concerns to the attention of the Competition Authority. As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the Authority, I have no direct function in the matter. On the issue of cost differentials, pricing strategies in any business is the normal outcome of the competitive process and is a legitimate business tool. Such practices are matters for businesses themselves and are ones in which I have no direct function.

Comments

Padraic Burke
Posted on 16 Feb 2012 10:42 pm (Report this comment)

Under section 30 (2) of the Competition Act 2002, the Minister can request the Competition Authority to carry out a market "study or analysis" of the cement and concrete industry. The Competition Authority is not independent in that it relies on Minister Bruton under sections 39 and 43 of the Competition Act 2002 to fund it in order to carry out its statutory function. Minister Bruton has an obvious conflict of interest in that he is a former employee and current shareholder in CRH. It is no wonder he refuses to initiate an investigation. This is political capture at its worst. Minister Bruton is also responsible for appointing Gerald FitzGerald as a member of the Competition Authority. Gerald FitzGerald is a former partner of McCann FitzGerald, the firm responsible for defending Readymix plc in cases of Competition Law infringements. How can someone be charged with regulating an industry when he comes from that industry himself?

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