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Written Answers. - Customs Clearance Agents.

Wednesday, 8 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 1

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 49. Mr. N. Ahern Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern  asked the Minister for Finance Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the total amount of compensation paid out to customs clearance agents in Ireland in view of the fact that EU customs clearance was abolished a few years ago; the total size of the fund made available by the EU; the reason Ireland received such a small portion of the fund; the criteria involved; the number of claims made in Ireland; the number of claims approved; the average payment per claim or individual; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9056/96]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The European Commission established a fund of 30 million ecu (approximately [88] £IR24 million) under Council Regulation 3904/92 on measures to adapt the profession of customs agent to the internal market, to provide assistance to Irish customs clearance firms with diversification plans, principally by way of training and retraining measures. Apart from this scheme there was no provision for compensatory payments as such to the customs clearance agents in Ireland when customs clearance was abolished.

Under the regulation, Community assistance was to be provided for the following measures: management of the conversion or restructuring of companies, in particular by market studies and research; technology transfer, including the collection and dissemination of information, and innovation within companies; assistance in the creation or maintenance of long-term employment; and vocational training for employees and any measures to facilitate such training.

Ireland was allocated 526,038 ecus (IR£420,830) from the fund on the basis of the number of jobs threatened here as a percentage of the EU total. As the financing was to be provided under the European Social Fund, the scheme was managed by the Department of Enterprise and Employment.

The European Council regulation establishing the scheme required member states to consult relevant professional and social interest groups before submitting applications for aid to Brussels. The Department of Enterprise and Employment provided details of the scheme to the following representative organisations: The Association of Customs Clearance Agents of Rosslare; The Irish Customs Clearance Agents' Association; The Irish Ship Agents' Association; The Border Customs Clearance Association; and The Institute of Freight Forwarders in Ireland.

Applications for retraining programmes were to be submitted to FÁS; applications for business diversification projects were to be submitted directly to the Department of Enterprise and Employment.

[89] Twelve applications for funding were received from customs clearance agents. These applications plus the FÁS application, totalling 13 applications, were forwarded to the European Commission and were approved for funding before the end of 1993.

The customs clearance agents' programme was originally scheduled to run from 1 January 1993 to 31 December 1994. It was subsequently extended for one year to 31 December 1995. Ireland's full allocation was expended before 31 December 1994 and a final claim, setting out the final expenditure position on each of the 13 approved projects, was submitted to the European Commission on 19 May 1995.

No further EU funding is available specifically for former customs clearance agents.

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