Dáil Éireann - Volume 543 - 06 November, 2001
Written Answers. - Veterinary Services.
Mr. Penrose Mr. Penrose
300. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if an inter- departmental group is in the process of reviewing the delivery of local authority veterinary services; if, in view of the recent foot and mouth disease crisis, his attention has been drawn to the importance of a local veterinary service response to local agricultural practices (details supplied); if, in view of the foregoing, his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the provision of this important veterinary service should be retained at local authority level; if the local authorities should be allocated the necessary resources to enable this important service to continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26921/01]
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): My Department is represented on an inter-departmental group, chaired by the Department of Finance, which is currently examining the best location in the longer-term for responsibility for legislation, which requires the services of a professional veterinarian. At present, in so far as the discharge of food safety related functions at premises slaughtering animals and processing foodstuff for the home market is concerned, each local authority is responsible to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland under service contract arrangements. The work of the inter-departmental group is ongoing and, when finalised, its conclusions will form the basis for decisions, which will be made at Government level on the longer-term future of this service following expiry of the current service contracts at the end of 2002.
I am aware that views have been expressed in the context of the recent foot and mouth outbreak about the importance of local services. I have no doubt but that this perspective will be taken fully into account by the inter-departmental group when considering the longer-term future of the service.
As regards funding, under relevant legislation – the Abattoirs Act, 1988 – each local authority was given responsibility to recover costs, either partially or wholly, through fees imposed on premises subject to inspection by them. However, since it became evident in late 1996 that many local authorities had to varying degrees not been fully discharging their statutory functions in this area, linked at least in part to their inability to recover the requisite costs from the industry, Exchequer assistance has, with Government approval, been paid through my Department's Vote with the objective of ensuring availability of the financial resources necessary to allow local authorities fully discharge their responsibilities in this area.
The ad hoc funding arrangements referred to have continued into the era of the local authority-FSAI service contracts and are still in place. In the current year, provision has been made for total Exchequer assistance to local authorities of £4.566 million. Funding will be paid in each case on the basis of certification by the FSAI that the  local authority concerned has met its contractual obligations to that body.
Dáil Éireann 543 Written Answers. Veterinary Services.