Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (99)

Charlie McConalogue


99. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of SPS and fisheries control officials that will be operational on 29 March 2019 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. [13982/19]

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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 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 use a combination of recruitment, redeployment and temporary flexible solutions where appropriate and as necessary. My Department has been 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.

My Department will have more than 120 people trained and in place to support Brexit-related activities by the end of March, and further staffing resources will continue to be assigned during the months of April and May. 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 will ensue following the UK's departure from the European Union. 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 and will be responsive to the situation that pertains.

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 in the future.