Dáil debates

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Priority Questions

Legislative Review.

3:00 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of the review of the Competition Act 2002 in view of the completion of the public consultation stage of this process; the changes he is considering at this stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4414/08]

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister, Deputy Martin, announced a public consultation on the operation and implementation of the Competition Act 2002 last October. A number of submissions have been received and are currently being examined. During a Dáil debate on the Private Members' Competition (Amendment) Bill in December, the Minister indicated that he would welcome submissions from interested parties. I understand that a number of submissions were received in January and more are expected.

Until all submissions have been received and considered in detail, the Minister considers that it is too early to say what changes, if any, will be proposed.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State might inform us what stage the Minister is at with regard to this matter. It is customary for the Minister to advise us, or at least advise the Chair, if he is not going to be here to take questions. As regards this specific question, will the Minister of State indicate how many Competition Authority reports have been published to date and how many recommendations have been implemented on foot of those reports? Is the Minister considering including in the competition (amendment) Bill the proposal by the National Competitiveness Council and the Business Regulation Forum to require Ministers and Government agencies to offer a reasoned response to Competition Authority reports, which is the case in the UK and other jurisdictions?

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I do not have answers to those specific questions but I will obtain the details sought by the Deputy concerning the number of reports. I will pass on to the Minister the Deputy's suggestion about replying to recommendations contained in such reports.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I can give the Minister of State a rough idea and although we do not have all the answers we have managed to find some of them. There have been 11 such reports to date, excluding those made last year which, in fairness, we do not expect to be implemented at this stage. Going back to 1998, one out of four recommendations in the report on liquor licensing was adopted. One out of ten recommendations in the report on casual trading was adopted. Some 21 recommendations out of 42 were adopted from the report on non-life insurance. Fifteen of 25 recommendations were adopted from the report on banking. Six of 11 recommendations were adopted from the report on the architectural profession. None of the five recommendations from the report on optometrists was adopted. It is quite clear therefore that a Government quango is issuing reports on the lack of competition in certain sectors, while the Minister files them away and forgets about them, as he did when he was Minister for Health and Children. There is a case for the NCC's recommendations to be implemented.

What consideration has been given to making amendments to the Competition Act that would allow for contract negotiations between professional bodies, such as the IMO and the IPU, and Government agencies, as opposed to price fixing?

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister has said that there will be a thorough analysis of all the submissions and that consideration will be given on how best to proceed when that review process has been completed. It is too early at this stage to speculate on any possible legislative changes.