Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Legislative Measures

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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147. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to update the legislation governing European Works Councils. [43822/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Due to the uncertainties caused by Brexit, many European Employee Fora and European Works Councils (EWCs) currently situated in the UK are reconsidering their location and many are now considering Ireland as a location post-Brexit.

Ireland has proven to be an attractive destination for EWCs for a variety of reasons including the fact that we operate a common law legal system, have a strong employment law framework, are English speaking and have a thriving business-friendly environment.

The European Communities (Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996) (Amendment) Regulations 2011, is the governing legislation in this area. In light of the expected increase in applications to locate European Works Councils in Ireland after Brexit, Department officials are examining the current legislative framework to ensure that it is robust.

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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149. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of legislation to transpose the ECN plus directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44128/20]

Darren O'Rourke (Meath East, Sinn Fein)
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166. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of the new legislation he is preparing that will give regulators such as the Commission for Communications Regulation and the CCPC powers to levy administrative financial sanctions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43976/20]

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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183. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for strengthening Competition and Consumer Protection Commission enforcement powers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43790/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 166 and 183 together.

Directive 2019/1/EU empowers the competition authorities of the Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market. It is more commonly known as the “ECN+ Directive” and it is due for transposition by 4 February 2021. In Ireland, it is intended to transpose the ECN+ Directive by primary legislation.

The ECN+ Directive contains a framework of rules to ensure that National Competition Authorities (NCAs) have the necessary guarantees of independence, sufficient resources and appropriate powers of enforcement. This includes the ability to issue fines, for breaches of Articles 101 (prohibition of cartel behaviour) and 102 (prohibition of abuse of dominance behaviour) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Irish Courts are National Competition Authorities (NCAs) in Ireland for the purposes of EU competition law.

The provisions in this Bill in relation to giving the CCPC and ComReg the power to impose administrative sanctions are solely those powers required for transposition of the ECN+ Directive. The ECN+ Directive is partially intended to align the powers of the national competition authorities across the EU Member States in relation to the enforcement of competition law within the Union. As such, once the Directive is transposed, Ireland will have the same powers as other Member States. This will also help implement the Programme for Government commitment to enable the CCPC and ComReg to make greater use of administrative penalties to sanction rogue operators, as was referred to in the Action Plan for Insurance Reform which was launched last week (8th December).

My Department chairs an Interdepartmental and Interagency Group comprising of representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, the Courts Service, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, ComReg and the CCPC to contribute to the drafting of the General Scheme of a Bill. This Group met most recently on Monday, 14th December last. The Department has also worked closely with the Office of the Attorney General, on preparing the General Scheme for this Bill.

I intend to take a Memo to Government very shortly seeking approval for the drafting of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2021 as a priority. This Bill is the vehicle by which the ECN+ Directive is to be transposed. I hope to receive Government approval and its inclusion for priority progression through the Oireachtas in the Spring Legislative Programme. I and Minister Troy have already written to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment seeking an early date for consideration of pre-legislative scrutiny for this Bill. When this is complete, and following Government approval, Minister Troy will publish the Bill and seek to progress it through the Oireachtas during the Spring programme.

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