Tuesday, 5 October 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Health and Safety
784. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he plans to establish an Oireachtas inquiry into the meat processing sector in view of a resolution by Dáil Éireann and the recommendation of the Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response. [48185/21]
The final report of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response published on 6 October 2020 included a recommendation calling for an inquiry ‘to examine the operation of the meat processing industry, including the use of agents to procure workers, to include the State’s response in terms of protecting workers, while ensuring necessary food supplies to the general population, as well as ensuring fairness for primary producers.’ It further recommended that the inquiry should be in the nature of an ‘Inquire, Record and Report Inquiry’ established pursuant to section 7 of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act, 2013.
Section 7 empowers a Committee to conduct an inquiry into any matter where the inquiry consists only of recording and reporting the evidence. In exercise of the power to conduct a section 7 inquiry, it may make findings of fact and recommendations, subject to certain limitations set out under that provision of the legislation.
It is therefore a matter for the relevant sectoral committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas, rather than myself as Minister, to consider and decide whether they wish under to undertake section 7 inquiries in accordance with that recommendation.
In relation to the remit of my Department, it has statutory responsibility to ensure that the 149 meat premises approved by it operate in compliance with EU rules on food hygiene legislation, animal and plant health and animal welfare standards.
In the context of the pandemic, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) are the competent authorities in matters relating to public health. Statutory responsibility for health and safety in the workplace rests with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment which also has responsibility for policy on employment rights and conditions.