To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office's oral contribution of 9 December 2020, Official Report, column 852, and the letter of the hon. Member for Leeds West of 3 December 2020, how many of the 50,000 customs agents needed for the end of the transition period are ready to begin their duties on 1 January 2021.
HMRC’s focus has been on capacity to make declarations, rather than the number of staff employed. This is because the sector is varied and made up of a number of different business models including specific customs brokers, freight forwarders and fast parcel operators. All of these require varied numbers of staff to complete declarations and to provide their services.
Many in the sector have innovated and brought in IT solutions to reduce the numbers of staff they require. The Government has helped them to do this by making over £80 million of support available, including flexible grants that can be used for IT and training, as well as recruitment; depending on the needs of their business.
The findings from recently published Ipsos MORI research set out that the sector expects to be able to complete 76-119 million additional declarations by the end of the transition period. This aligns with HMRC’s estimate that intermediaries will need to facilitate c.94m EU declarations per year at that point.