Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (2101, 2102, 2103, 2104, 2105, 2106, 2107)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

2101. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of new Department staff hired at Dublin Port to prepare for the possibility of the UK becoming a third country with the European Union and the increased export certification as well as sanitary and phytosanitary controls and checks required for live animals and food products; the number of new Department staff hired at the port in each year since 2016 and to date in 2019; the number of Department staff employed at the port by grade. [34254/19]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

2102. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when Rosslare Harbour gained border inspection post status from the European Union, EU; the number of new Department staff hired at the port to prepare for the possibility of the UK becoming a third country with the EU and the increased export certification as well as sanitary and phytosanitary controls and checks required for live animals and food products. [34255/19]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

2103. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, and fisheries control officials that will be operational on 31 October 2019 out of the planned recruitment of 116 staff for SPS and fisheries controls as agreed on 18 September 2018; the number of such officials that have been hired as a Brexit mitigation measure that are operational in view of the fact the Minister for Finance has confirmed that the Revenue Commissioners have appointed over 550 staff from open recruitment and interdepartmental competitions with the majority of these assigned to customs roles. [34256/19]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

2104. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of full and part-time staff veterinary officers and inspectors respectively employed in his Department at the end of June 2019, by Civil Service grade and division; the number of veterinary staff that will be operational on 31 October 2019, in tabular form. [34257/19]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

2105. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of portal inspectors, plant health inspectors and administrative support staff employed in his Department at the end of June 2019, by Civil Service grade and division; the number of such staff that will be operational on 31 October 2019, in tabular form. [34258/19]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

2106. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated number of private veterinary practitioners that may be needed for border inspection post duty as part of his contingency planning in the event of a no-deal Brexit; the number of such practitioners that have been hired to date; and the number targeted for 31 October 2019. [34259/19]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

2107. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of staff recruited to date under the allocation in 2019 following the allocation in budget 2019 of €7 million for staff and information technology costs arising from additional import control and export certification requirements arising from Brexit; his plans for advertising for such positions; the timelines for recruitment; when the first staff hires took up these positions in 2019; and the number estimated to be hired for sanitary, phytosanitary and veterinary staff. [34260/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2101 to 2107, inclusive, together.

Given the large volume of information sought by the Deputy the information will be forwarded in the coming days.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A
General approach to Brexit resourcing
With respect to addressing Brexit contingencies, my Department continues to participate 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. My Department had previously carried out an extensive analysis exercise to establish the potential volumes of controls that will need to be carried out. This exercise has been used, where appropriate, to guide relevant planning in relation to putting in place the staff that will be required.
Regarding staffing requirements, at all stages, my Department has sought to use a combination of recruitment, redeployment and temporary flexible solutions, such as contracted veterinary services, where appropriate and as necessary. Given the level of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, my Department’s approach has been to adopt, where possible, options that offer a degree of flexibility, such as internal short term redeployment and contracted services, whilst ensuring, in conjunction and cooperation with our recruitment partners, the Public Appointments Service (PAS), that avenues for more permanent recruitment are available and can be drawn from as necessary. This approach is with a view to being able to address requirements in the near to medium term across various possible contingencies, from the negative end of the spectrum in terms of a no deal-Brexit to more benign contingencies of a Brexit based on a deal between the EU and the UK.
In terms of requirements to address Brexit, some 190 resources were identified as being needed as of March/April 2019. This has been reassessed more recently to take account of aspects such as changes to policies and procedures or additional infrastructure, e.g. the infrastructure used to conduct controls on 31st October will be different to that which was available on 12th April.
Targeted requirement for 31 October 2019
Focussing on immediate initial requirements, in the area of East-West import and export controls for UK product into Ireland, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on October 31st, my Department will have 240 staff resources available across a range of disciplines in both front line control and back up administrative spheres. This overall number will include recruits, redeployed staff and contracted Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs). A breakdown of the resources required is outlined in the tables below. Indicative front-line resources will be primarily deployed at Dublin Port (58% approx.), Rosslare Port (14% approx.) and Backweston (18% approx.)
Front Line Control Divisions –Requirements and Locations

DAFM

Dublin Port

Rosslare Port

Backweston

Other staff

HPHD

99

37

10

45

7

NDCC

128

95

19

14

Forestry

13

5

5

3

Total

240

137

34

45

24

Recruitment
Overall, the key grades where the majority of deployment will occur are in veterinary and portal inspector roles on the animals and products of animal origin side, as well as agricultural and forestry inspectors and portal inspectors on the plant health and forestry side.
In terms of recruitment, engagement with PAS is ongoing.
Approximately 60% of overall requirements, with reference to the aggregate of 240, are portal inspectors. Some 75 positions will be filled in the context of a hard Brexit, with around two-thirds of these earmarked for Plant Health requirements, both at the port and performing documentary checks in Backweston (see Backweston Column in table above). These requirements are being addressed through redeployment and also by recruitment processes with the Public Appointments Service.
Whilst, in the near term, Agricultural and Forestry Inspectorate requirements on the plant health and forestry sides are well balanced in terms of supply versus demand of available resource, there is potential for some limited further recruitment ahead of October 2019. Recently finalised AAI & Forestry Inspector panels provide a key avenue from which further staff requirements could be drawn.
With respect to veterinary resources, 29 additional veterinary inspectors are required in the event of a hard Brexit, to be made up from internal redeployment and temporary contracted resources, drawing from a central pool of appropriately qualified PVP’s, already established. A Veterinary Inspector panel is nearing finalisation, and it will also be possible to draw from that in advance of 31st October if required.
The SFPA are obliged to carry out Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) controls on imports of fish and fishery products. This work is expected to increase post-Brexit and require additional staff. An additional cohort of Sea Fisheries Protection Officers (SFPO) were recruited in the latter part of 2018 and in May 2019. It is anticipated that Brexit related hiring will continue in 2019 for SFPO and other grades.
A proportion of the staff already referenced will address both import and export requirements. Further additional Brexit related requirements for export certification will be dependent on any requirements set out by the UK. The UK has advised to date that it will require certification of commercial animals other than horses, plants and certain plant products (including timber and peat), following a no-deal Brexit. The UK has stated that it will not require certification of products of animal origin, other than those that currently require health certification such as germinal products.
Redeployment
Mechanisms to temporarily redeploy appropriately trained, experienced people within my Department have been initiated and will continue. This approach ensures that a balanced mix of new and experienced personnel will be available for Brexit-related duties when required. Temporary redeployment has advantages in that experienced staff are engaged and flexibility is facilitated in the short term. Importantly, the capacity to adapt to political developments is facilitated by such flexibility. In the longer term, should increased Brexit requirements persist, such staff as have been redeployed would need to return to their previous work areas or be backfilled to ensure business continuity, with further additional new staff being hired on a phased basis.
Contracted Services:
The potential for engagement of contracted temporary service arrangements, specifically in the veterinary discipline, has also been progressed to address contingencies. A dynamic purchasing system has been developed specifically with a view to procuring the services of appropriately qualified PVPs. A central pool has been established, numbering over 50 appropriately qualified PVPs. Further competitive processes for the locations in question are underway. A focus on two aspects will underpin efforts in this area; firstly, increasing the central pool of candidates and secondly, ensuring an adequate cohort are engaged, contracted and trained to address requirements for 31st October or as they evolve in light of developments.
It is important to note that staffing estimates are provided on the basis of a disorderly Brexit using the infrastructure that is expected to be available in Dublin and Rosslare ports in October. The development of additional bays in Terminal 10, in particular, has the potential to have a knock-on effect on the numbers of staff required, and this contingency is being actively examined. Estimates may also need to be revised in light of any new political developments or on foot of any changes to the UK’s requirements, particularly regarding export certification.
With regards to the status of Rosslare Port as raised by the Deputy, a Commission Implementing Decision of April 11th granted Rosslare approval as a border inspection post, conditional on the UK exiting the European Union and Union law no longer applying to or in the UK.
In the context of an initial uncertain period in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it will be necessary to carefully observe how operational arrangements with respect to staffing are bedding down. Furthermore, it will also be necessary to observe how a no-deal Brexit might evolve, given the ongoing potential staffing effects.
I remain confident that my Department is in a position to deliver the services required in terms of both imports and exports at the appropriate time.