Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 Sep 2021

Vol. 1011 No. 1

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Employment Rights

Louise O'Reilly


46. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when legislation delivering a right to request remote working will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43777/21]

In advance of the phased return to workplaces from 20 September, many workers are wondering when they will have a legal right to request remote or blended working arrangements. Can the Tánaiste give an update on the drafting of legislation to deliver a right to request remote working?

The right to request remote working is part of a broader Government vision to make remote working a permanent feature of Ireland's workforce in a way that can benefit all, economically, socially and environmentally. The commitment to introduce legislation to underpin an employee's right to request remote working was made in the national remote work strategy published last January. The pandemic has certainly brought remote working centre stage and work on this important legislation is well advanced.

The Bill will set out a clear framework to facilitate remote and blended work options, in so far as possible. It will ensure that when an employer declines a request, he or she must give stated reasons for doing so. Remote working will not work for everyone, which means we must take a balanced approach with the legislation. On 20 August, I published the views of members of the public and stakeholder groups on the new legislation. The summary report of the 175 submissions is now available on my Department's website. Informed by the public consultation and a review of international best practice, the drafting of the general scheme of the Bill has commenced and I will be seeking Cabinet approval for the drafting of heads of Bill in quarter 4 of 2021. The Bill will be progressed through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible thereafter. The intention is to introduce a mechanism for employees to request remote working that is fair but does not place undue burdens on employers.

In the meantime, we will continue to provide up-to-date advice, guidance and information on all aspects of remote working for workers and employers. On 28 June, I launched my Department's Making Remote Work campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the advice and information available from Government to help workers and employers facilitate more remote and blended working. It includes guidance for employers and workers and a remote working checklist, all of which are available on the Department's website. I can also inform the House that the work safety protocol has been updated, in consultation with unions and employers, and I should be in a position to publish it tomorrow or the day after, in advance of the phased return to offices that will begin next Monday.

Since the announcement by the Government of the phased return to work from 20 September, many workers have expressed concerns to us about what that will mean for remote and blended working in the future. From the Tánaiste's response, it seems we are a good bit away from having the right of workers to request remote working delivered into law. In the absence of that firm legal footing for workers, will he publicly state that the Government's preferred option is for employers and managers to agree with workers, their trade unions and representatives a blended working programme that takes into account the health and safety of workers? This means ensuring engagement with workers, their trade unions and representative bodies as the phased return to on-site working happens. Furthermore, will the Government lead by example in this regard by ensuring remote and blended working options are offered to workers in both the civil and public service?

That would be a good start in that regard.

We expect to have heads of the Bill, that is, the general scheme of the Bill, in the next couple of weeks. Obviously, that will have to go to the committee chaired by the Deputy. We hope to have the legislation enacted, realistically early in the new year, but if we get it done before then that would be great.

I am a big fan of remote working and blended working. It is part of the future. Part of the dividend from this pandemic is that we will not have people crowded into offices in the way they used to be. The office will be a different place. It will be a more creative place. Most people, or many people at least, will work sometimes from home, sometimes from the office and possibly sometimes from a remote hub in a small village or town. Of course, services have to be provided and the work has to be done. However, so long as services are provided and the work is done, we want people to have maximum choice and flexibility around that.

The return to the office begins next week and the message we are sending out to employers is that it will be phased. The public service will lead by example in that regard. It might initially involve people returning to the office for only one day or two days a week. People who can successfully work from home should be facilitated to continue to do so if that is their wish.

I thank the Tánaiste for his response. Many people are concerned regarding what will happen. It is good that the Government is calling on employers to do X, Y and Z but we will be coming into this very soon. I agree with the Tánaiste that one of the benefits of the pandemic is that working will change for many people. My colleagues and I have spoken to many people on this issue in the past couple of months and the message we have received is that a blended approach would suit many people, while working from home suits other people. Some people want to get back to the office full time.

As the Tánaiste noted, I am Chairman of the committee to which the Bill will come. We will not be lax in getting it through as fast as we can and we look forward to receiving the heads of Bill. We will work with the Tánaiste in that regard.

Essentially what I want to do here is to maximise choice for people. Many people have seen the benefits of working from home and remote working. Many people said it could not be done or that we would see a big drop-off in productivity. Generally speaking, that has not been the case although some people would dispute that. We are keen to make this part of the new normal.

The legislation will put in place a structured system whereby a person can request remote working. The employer will have to provide a response within a defined timeframe and will have to give a reason for refusal. That reason can then be challenged. That is the system on which we are working. It is similar to the system in place in the UK. In the meantime, I hope employers and employees will be practical and sit down together to work out the best arrangements for them. There are many people now working from home because they have to do so due to Government orders and Government advice. That will change. It is going to be much more choice-based in the future.

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

Catherine Murphy


47. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will outline, in the context of the corporate enforcement authority, the organisational structure and the required human resources from the perspective of the civil and public service and the Garda Síochána; and if a memorandum of understanding is or will be put in place to ensure guaranteed Garda resources are available at all times. [44054/21]

Under the recently published Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, will be taken over by an independent statutory agency, namely, the corporate enforcement authority. The aim is to have that body up and running by 1 January. Will there be a memorandum of understanding with the Garda regarding resources available at all times?

The Government approved publication of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 in July and it will be presented to the House tomorrow for its Second Stage reading. When enacted, the Bill will give effect to the programme for Government commitment to transform the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement into the corporate enforcement authority, CEA, which will be an independent statutory agency.

The new authority will have a commission structure. This structure will allow the authority to bring in expertise as necessary to meet the different demands of its remit, which includes investigation, prosecution, supervision and advocacy. It also allows for clear lines of responsibility and enhances the capacity of the authority to conduct numerous complex investigations simultaneously.

In April, the Tánaiste received the report of the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment following its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. The report was carefully considered. It stressed the need for sufficient resources being available to the authority. This is something on which the Tánaiste and I agree. In line with an assessment of the new authority’s staffing needs by the Director of Corporate Enforcement, my Department has already increased the budget of the ODCE by €1 million over previous levels and sanctioned 14 additional staff at Civil Service grades, representing a 35% increase in such staff.

As regards increased Garda resources, as part of his assessment the director identified a need for an additional nine members of An Garda Síochána to be assigned to the authority. Although the Garda Commissioner and the director are independent in their statutory functions, the Government has noted the Garda Commissioner’s confirmation to the director that nine additional members of An Garda Síochána will be provided to the authority. This means the level of Garda resources available to the director will be doubled. The total increase in the overall headcount for the new CEA will be nearly 50% on previous levels.

I look forward to the enactment of the Bill and the establishment of the authority at the earliest opportunity.

There was a problem with the secondment of gardaí to the ODCE. An article on the matter written by Ken Foxe was published in The Irish Times some time ago. Essentially, the director wrote to the Garda Commissioner seeking six new detectives but all he got in return was an acknowledgement. It took a long time to fulfil that need. They are absolutely critical to the working of this new legislation, as the Minister of State is more than aware. Will there be a memorandum of understanding between the Garda and the new corporate enforcement authority? How can it be guaranteed that the priorities for the Garda Commissioner will not lie elsewhere? There is a history of what was requested not being provided.

I point out that the director of corporate enforcement and the Garda Commissioner are statutorily independent in their functions. Matters relating to Garda resources are an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. As it moves to establish the authority, the Government fully supports additional Garda Síochána resources being made available based on its statutory functions, its assessment of its resourcing needs and the vision of the Government for the new authority. As part of the Government's decision to publish the Bill, it noted and welcomed the Garda Commissioner's written confirmation to the director that nine additional members of An Garda Síochána will be seconded to the authority with effect from its establishment. This is in line with the assessment of the Director of Corporate Enforcement of the Garda staffing needs of the authority.

I hope this works out very well because there has been underprovision in the area but there is also the fact that white-collar crime has not been taken as seriously as other types of crime. Some of that is down to the fragmentation of organisations such as the ODCE. I hope its successor will be more successful, but it can only be successful if it is independent and has the resources to do the job. Obviously, the Minister of State is giving me an assurance based on the written confirmation from the Commissioner. We will see how that plays out. I still have concerns in that regard because of the fragmentation of how the State goes about corporate enforcement.

The Deputy is right that white-collar crime is a menace. It is not a victimless crime and it is important that we take tough action against it. That is why there is a commitment in the programme for Government to establish this statutory body. It will be autonomous and independent in nature and it will have the powers to recruit the relevant expertise that is needed. That has already been commenced.

As regards the staffing arrangements between the authority and the Garda Síochána, the director and the Commissioner have committed to developing a new, formal and detailed arrangement in respect of the secondment of Garda resources to the new authority. Matters such as the filling of vacancies as they arise, funding etc. will be dealt with by way of written agreement. The Deputy is correct that there was an issue in the past. Thankfully, although both bodies are independent in nature, they have come together and formalised the arrangement and the Government welcomes that.

Living Wage

Louise O'Reilly


48. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for the introduction of a living wage as committed to in the programme for Government. [43778/21]

I raised the issue of the introduction of a living wage with the Tánaiste a number of times prior to the recess. In previous exchanges, the Tánaiste mentioned that the improvement of workers' conditions has been a priority. As such, I would like to know how this priority is progressing. Can the Tánaiste provide us with a timeframe of when the Low Pay Commission review will be completed? It has been subcontracted and tasked with reporting back with some idea of the living wage.

The programme for Government makes the commitment to "progress to a living wage over the lifetime of the Government". I have spoken before about how the pandemic has caused many of us to reconsider and re-evaluate what an essential worker is. We now understand that it is a much broader group of workers than people would have originally described, many of whom are on low pay and in the private sector. The Government has been clear in our belief that a legacy of the pandemic must be better pay, terms and conditions for everyone, but particularly for those on low pay. We are committed, therefore, to honouring the Government commitment to progressing to a living wage over the lifetime of this Government. In doing so, we need to recognise that many businesses have been badly affected by the pandemic and are struggling to pay existing wages. We need to make sure that we proceed in a way that does not cause jobs to be lost in terms of the numbers of people employed, or would see employees having their hours cut. To do so would be counterproductive.

Earlier this year I asked the Low Pay Commission to examine the programme for Government commitment and to make recommendations on the best approach. The commission is currently undertaking research on the topic and the terms of reference for this research were noted by Cabinet earlier this year. The report will consider the policy, social and economic implications of a move to a living wage and the process by which Ireland could progress towards it. It will do this by looking at international evidence on living wages, examining different calculation methods, examining the policy implications and outlining options for moving to a living wage in Ireland. The findings and recommendations in the commission's report, which I expect to receive before the end of the year, will inform Government on the best practical approach to proceed.

While the living wage initiative is being considered, the Government will be guided by the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission with regard to any future changes to the existing national minimum wage. The national minimum wage seeks to find the balance between a fair and sustainable rate for low-paid workers and one that does not have significant negative consequences in terms of employment and competitiveness.

As the Tánaiste is aware, I have expressed my scepticism already in respect of the Low Pay Commission and my concern that it will come back with too low a figure. It has previous on this with the national minimum wage, when it came back with figures that would have been described at the time as desultory, paltry and pathetic. It does not give me huge confidence if we are leaving the matter with the commission.

For many of our low-paid workers, the introduction of a living wage could be the difference between poverty and a minimum standard of living. The Tánaiste will be aware that a motion on a living wage that I introduced in November 2019 in the Thirty-second Dáil was passed. A living wage is vitally important to those workers on low wages and I believe it will be an important tool in ensuring that people remain in jobs that they would otherwise aspire to leave. Some of them know that they cannot stay in those jobs on the wages they are on. I urge the Tánaiste to use his influence to ensure that a real living wage is introduced in the quickest possible timeframe - a living wage that is decent and fair, and protects workers and businesses.

I do not expect the Low Pay Commission to come back to us with the rate of the living wage. I expect it will come back to us with a method by which the rate can be calculated on an annual basis. Perhaps that is the same thing, but it is an important point nonetheless. There are two ways of calculating it. It can be calculated as a percentage of median wages, for example, 50%, 60% or 65%, and there are different arguments as to which figure should be chosen; or it can be calculated based on what is called a minimum essential standard of living based on a basket of goods and services that people need to be able to afford to get by. Then there is a debate about what should be in the basket or not. That is the kind of work that is being done by the commission at the moment. It is giving us advice on which method to go for and why.

I think the Low Pay Commission is a good body. It is a body that was established under the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government. It does it the right way. There is an equal number of employer and employee representatives on the commission, and there are a number of people who are independent figures who are not part of any sectional interest. I know there are some groups that calculate minimum wages, but they exclude employers. I imagine if employers had a group that excluded workers, it would come up with a different rate. Therefore, it is important that we have everybody involved. However, I have no doubt, because it is what happened in the UK, that whatever the living wage is set at there will always be a group of people who will say that it is not enough and they will then look for a real living wage. That is the way it goes.

People will be bitterly disappointed if the commission reports back and the living wage is not €12.30 or more per hour. People have suggested that the living wage should be €12.30 per hour. The reason that we are demanding a living wage in this country is because issues such as the cost of rent, public transport and childcare have not been addressed. Until they are addressed, we are going to be demanding a living wage of €12.30 per hour.

I wish to remind people and businesses that we also need to amend the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, which contained an exception for businesses that could prove that they could not pay the minimum wage. The same thing should be done with the living wage. In fairness, as far as I am aware no company ever used that exemption because they realised they had to pay it and it was the decent thing to do and they wanted to keep their workers. I do not have to tell the Tánaiste, because it is proven, that the more you pay your workers when you can, the better outcomes you will have. It is better for productivity and the economy, and it means that there are fewer State interventions providing for people who are on poverty wages. I look forward to hearing the Tánaiste's response.

There is a group - I forget exactly how it is described - that calculates the living wage at €12.30 per hour. If I remember, it also recommended that there be no increase in it last year. I do not know what the recommendation will be for next year. The group is made up mainly of people from the trade union movement, academics and those from NGOs. They are all worthy and learned people but they have not included in the group any representatives from small business or the employment or business sector, for example. That does affect the legitimacy of that calculation. As the Deputy is aware, one thing we always have to bear in mind is the difference between the minimum wage in Northern Ireland and that in this jurisdiction, and how that can affect Border business and cause businesses in the Border region to lose out, lose business and even lose workers and staff and have to lay them off if the differential between North and South is great. I would encourage the Deputy to use his influence to improve wages in the North if he can.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Mick Barry


49. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he will take to ensure the maximum possible engagement with workers and their representatives in the process of the return to work with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43779/21]

I ask the Tánaiste what measures he will take to ensure the maximum possible engagement with workers and their representatives in the process of the return to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I thank the Deputy for the question. On 31 August 2021, the Government published Reframing the Challenge: Continuing our Recovery and Reconnecting, containing updated guidance to take effect from 20 September 2021, as part of a gradual and careful reopening process in advance of the further planned relaxation of restrictions on 22 October.

A sub-group of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, LEEF, which is the forum for high-level dialogue between Government, trade union and employer representatives on matters related to the labour force, has also published an additional guidance note on the gov.ie website on returning safely to the workplace from 20 September to assist businesses and employees.

The successful roll-out of the vaccination programme has allowed the advice on the need to work from home to be revised from 20 September. As a result, an update of the work safely protocol with some minor changes is being finalised and will be published in the coming days. All employers and business managers who are considering a phased and staggered return to the workplace over coming weeks should familiarise themselves with the updated protocol. As workers return to workplaces, the role of the lead worker representative is particularly important, and this is emphasised in both the protocol and in the new LEEF guidance note published last week. All workers, regardless of the sector of the economy in which they work, are covered by the provisions of the work safely protocol and I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to continue to work closely with employers and trade unions to ensure appropriate guidance is in place for this next phase of reopening.

The Deputy has asked about good communication. I wish to emphasise that since Covid has hit these shores, we have been very lucky to have good engagement through LEEF and with the employee representative bodies through the unions and employers. We have been able to bring forward the work safely protocol and update it on numerous occasions. Most businesses have found it to be an extremely useful guide, as have their employees. Hopefully, that engagement can continue in the next few days as we move on to the next phase.

On the issue of health and safety and maximum consultation, the Government decided to implement 100% capacity on public transport at short notice the week that schools went back. No opinion was sought from NPHET. There was no consultation with public transport workers who, by the way, played a key role in guiding society through the pandemic.

However, the workers rejected the Government's instruction. They decided to keep capacity of 75%. In practice, they are allowing seats to be occupied and implementing a no-standing policy.

The way the Government handled this was an example of how things should not be done. The way the public transport workers handled it was an example of how things should be done. If there is consultation on health and safety, that is fine. If there is agreement on health and safety, that is good. If there is no agreement, then the workers must have the decisive say. As we approach 20 September, their example is one for the country as a whole. I ask for the Minister of State's comments on this.

Again, I thank the Deputy for raising the question. He had not flagged any particular area in his question but I am happy to take on board his advice, guidance and suggestions. They will be passed on.

When any advice is updated on movement restrictions, the work safely protocol in place at the time is the one to be followed. The new version that will be published in the next couple of days will be about the sixth or seventh version. Workers going back to work at that stage will follow that protocol. The protocol has been very successful. In this regard, there have been over 42,500 inspections by our agencies. There has been an adherence rate of over 90% at all times. If the Deputy has any suggestions on the protocol, I will be happy to take them on board over the next couple of days.

While workers will be back to work on 20 September, the teachers went back to work three weeks ago. The employer, the State, did not set a very good example in this regard either. Best practice ordains that every classroom should have a filter and a carbon dioxide monitor. Proper mitigation measures, according to Professor Orla Hegarty, would cost €10 per child. They were not put in place, however. How does the Minister of State explain that to teachers? Will he comment on that?

I listened with interest to the Tánaiste when he said he is a fan of remote working. I note that some tech giants based in the United States but with operations in this country are cutting the pay of workers in the United States who choose to work at home in areas where the cost of living is less than in the area where their office is based. Will the Minister of State join me in making an explicit call to state that under no circumstances should this policy be pursued by the tech giants here in this country?

On the matter of people going back to work in schools, they have been at work in schools since last autumn and have been teaching consistently throughout the period. They went back to school under the various protocols. The return to work safely protocol is the standard across all sectors. Naturally, each area — schools are a prime example — go further than that. Schools do so under the direction of the Department of Education. That is what has happened. We have had quite a good success story over the past 12 months in regard to in-school teaching. It has been quite positive.

On advice for employers in this country, we have strong employment laws and protections for all workers. That is advice we work to. Any employer here has to work according to our rules and regulations. I cannot comment on what happens in other countries. I doubt that the Deputy wants me to interfere with their laws. We can work on our own here.

The question was whether the Minister of State will join me in making a call to the companies to say that under no circumstances should pay cuts of the kind in question be implemented here. I would appreciate an answer to that.

To be very clear, we have had great engagement with all employers on the wage levels set in this country. The majority of employers go well above what is required. We have protections in place in regard to employee pay and conditions, and we have rules and regulations that have to be enforced. I cannot comment on any-----

No clear call from the Minister of State.

Brexit Issues

Michael Fitzmaurice


50. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that Irish food export companies are fully prepared for the changes proposed as part of the post-Brexit process, specifically in relation to products of animal origin, which are due to be introduced on 1 October 2021; the steps taken by him to assist Irish food export companies that will be impacted by changes; if his Department has engaged with Enterprise Ireland on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43474/21]

I congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Troy, on his marriage to his better half during the summer.

My question is to ascertain whether the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Leo Varadkar, is satisfied that Irish food export companies are fully prepared for the changes proposed as part of the post-Brexit process, specifically in regard to products of animal origin and which are due to be introduced on 1 October 2021. I wish to know the steps taken by the Minister to assist Irish food export companies that will be affected by changes. Has his Department engaged with Enterprise Ireland on this issue? Will he make a statement on the matter? I submitted this question a week ago but I acknowledge that there have been changes in the past couple of days.

I thank the Deputy. I appreciate that the announcement was only in the past couple of days and came after the Deputy submitted his question.

As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I can assure the Deputy that the Government is very much aware of the challenges that Brexit brings for exporters, in particular for businesses in the agrifood sector. We continue to work closely with the agrifood sector to mitigate the impact of the new trading arrangements to operationalise the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, TCA. We are also continuing to engage with our EU and UK colleagues on the introduction of further administrative requirements for trade.

Last week, I met UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, MP, as part of Enterprise Ireland's trade mission and I discussed the additional measures proposed by the UK. Since then the UK Government has announced an extension to the current grace periods beyond 1 October and, it seems, at least until the end of the year.

The agrifood sector is a major and important contributor to the Irish economy, particularly our rural economy, and any further regulatory requirements will present additional challenges and costs for Irish exporters. We are committed to ensuring that Irish food exporters fully understand any potential new UK import requirements and everyone in the supply chain is as prepared as possible. Being fully prepared is not the same as saying there will not be problems. Of course there will if there are new rules and regulations, forms to fill in and checks. With this in mind, there is ongoing cross-departmental engagement involving my Department and Enterprise Ireland to put in place a range of financial and advisory assistance measures to help our businesses to prepare for this new environment.

My colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, is leading on sector preparedness, and his Department and its UK equivalent, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, are engaging on the range of measures in place and proposed. His Department has also run joint webinars with DEFRA on the UK import controls. In a recent survey undertaken by Bord Bia, over 80% of Irish companies reported that they were ready for the new procedures proposed for imports into Great Britain of products of animal origin. They were planned for October. Therefore, if 80% are saying they are prepared, 20% may not be.

While the UK has announced the extension of grace periods, I remain confident that solutions exist, within the parameters of the protocol, to deal with the issues that have arisen to date. The EU has demonstrated time and again a considered, credible, solution-driven approach to these issues and will continue to encourage the UK Government to be similarly constructive in its approach.

I thank the Tánaiste. I am a member of the agriculture committee. In fairness to Deputy Cahill, he has brought this issue up also. It was going to be looked into at one of the meetings. If the arrangement had been implemented, especially on the food side, it is unknown how many vets would have been needed to sign off on products. My understanding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is that it expected people to have products ready from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Many companies might work for six days per week and would not have storage places. This is where Enterprise Ireland and the Minister's Department need to come in. The companies would not have the storage space to store some of the foodstuffs they are exporting. Whether someone knew something or not, there was no willingness up until the last week to have enough vets on stream. In fairness, an awful lot of vets would be needed. Would the Minister's Department be able to take an interest, work with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and ensure Enterprise Ireland gets involved and teases out the problems? Whether it is tomorrow or in a year's time, the arrangement will come down the road sooner or later.

I thank the Deputy. In an ideal world, I would like to see a closer relationship between the EU and the UK. I am not sure that is possible for the foreseeable future but anything that would align our standards, such as a veterinary agreement or food standards agreement, would dramatically reduce the number of checks and controls necessary and would be very beneficial to our farmers and exporters.

The issue of vets is obviously a matter for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine but we talk about these things. The Department says it would have had enough people available. The Department would have had to use other staff, contractors and so on, but it says it was prepared for that.

On the issue of storage, I will have to look into the matter and give it some consideration. It has not crossed my desk yet but I can see why storage and stockpiling would be advisable whenever the new checks and controls come into place.

We have 24-hour, in-person support in place at Dublin Port to deal with any issues, ready-for-customs grants to help people scale up their in-house activity, webinars and online guidance.

We will also continue to meet with stakeholders regularly and to listen and engage through the Brexit business forum.

I welcome the Minister's response. One thing that Enterprise Ireland or the Minister's Department needs to home in on is the storage part. My understanding from the veterinary side of this is that for eight or nine hours, a vet may be available. However, one may have a small company in this country that does not have the storage, where the lorries are going every three, four or five hours for six days a week - but not on Sundays; it may not have the facilities and the storage to ensure that when the vet is there the product can be signed off. It is imperative for us now when we have a kind of lead-in to this, hopefully, and as the Minister says, that regularisation will happen between the EU and the UK as to the agreement on food policy or whatever, and that we will then be able to work on this.

It is important because I am hearing that Enterprise Ireland is not greatly involved in this so far and it needs to get stuck in with problems such as this. I ask that the Minister might take note of the storage part of this to help businesses out. I thank the Minister.

I thank the Deputy and I hear what he is saying. I will definitely look into the issue of storage. I am unsure as to whether this is an issue for Enterprise Ireland, for the customs service or for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to take the lead on but this is an all-of-government matter and I will make some inquiries.