The Cattle Identification (Amendment) Regulations 2006, the Cattle Database (Amendment) Regulations 2006 and the Eggs (Marketing Standards) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2006 were laid before Parliament yesterday and entered into force today, 15 June 2006.
These are technical amendments to the Cattle Identification Regulations 1998, the Cattle Database Regulations 1998, and the Eggs (Marketing Standards) (England and Wales) Regulations 1995. The European Union legislation which they originally implemented was subsequently updated with new regulations. These amendments update the cross-references to refer to this later European legislation. The current consultation on other changes to the two cattle regulations, which ends on 21 June, will be unaffected by this change.
The effect of not having updated the cross-references has been challenged in court. I do not want to take any unnecessary risks when it comes to enforcing this legislation, which is designed to protect public health, and so I am now closing that gap and making it absolutely clear what offences are punishable under the legislation. It is particularly important that cattle keepers comply with EU law on the identification and movement of cattle if public health is to remain protected. The step change in performance by the British cattle industry has been recognised in the lifting of the export ban on beef and bovines, and rigorous enforcement of the rules has been a factor in getting the ban lifted. The powers for enforcement of the egg regulations are subject to the same consideration and it is right that the enforcement powers be updated now by these minor amendments.
These amendments will put future prosecutions on a solid legal foundation. That leaves a question over previous prosecutions. I understand that there have been around 250 successful prosecutions in which the courts have interpreted the references to the EU legislation as being references to the updated EU legislation. The legal effect of the mismatch has not been tested until now. It is now for the court to decide what the effect has been and what consequences flow from that decision in respect of those who have already been convicted.
I must emphasise, however, that these convictions will have been obtained in respect of actions that breached the EU legislation designed to protect public health. I am satisfied that our enforcement procedures have been, and will continue to be, rigorous. Public and animal health has been protected by the work of our inspectors, and will continue to be so.