Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Questions (15)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

15. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of SPS and fisheries control officials who will be operational on 29 March 2019, out of the planned recruitment of 116 staff for SPS and fisheries controls as agreed on 18 September 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5725/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is participating very actively in the Whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit. The Government has already sanctioned in the region of €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff to carry out increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.

These requirements are significant, and arise in relation to the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on imports of animals, plants, and products of animal and plant origin, as set out in EU legislation. The Department has carried out an extensive analysis exercise, based on examination of trade and container movement data, to establish the potential volumes of controls that will need to be carried out. This exercise has been used to guide our planning in relation to putting in place the staff that will be required.

In general, regarding staffing requirements, my Department will look to use a combination of options including recruitment, redeployment and temporary flexible solutions where appropriate and as necessary. My Department is working with our recruitment partners, the Public Appointments Service to engage Veterinary Inspectors, Portal Inspectors, Plant Health Inspectors and Administrative support staff. Mechanisms to temporarily redeploy experienced people within my Department have also been initiated and the engagement of contracted temporary service arrangements is also being progressed.

The final staffing numbers to be engaged in response to Brexit contingencies will depend on the nature of Brexit and the trading relationship with the UK that ensues. Should a hard Brexit be confirmed as the probable contingency to be addressed, my Department, through the mechanisms I have outlined, will have scope to deploy appropriate levels of resources as may be required. Overall, I remain confident that both the state, and my Department, will be in a position to deliver the services required in terms of both imports and exports at the appropriate time, be that at the end of March or any other point in the future.