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Aquatic Animal Health and Plant Health (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Volume 795: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2019

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Aquatic Animal Health and Plant Health (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

My Lords, I shall speak also to the instrument grouped with these regulations, as they are so interconnected. I should make it clear, first, that neither instrument makes any change to policy. These instruments are technical in nature and are to ensure a smooth transfer of powers from the EU to the UK. Secondly, I make it completely clear that these instruments in no way diminish our controls in the important subject areas covered. There is no proposal to alter or reduce our biosecurity controls for animals or plants, our animal welfare standards or our capacity to protect public health. Thirdly, Ministers will be able to make negative resolution statutory instruments only on specific procedural or technical matters that are laid down in the various legislative functions currently exercisable by the European Commission. The new enabling powers will therefore be confined to those matters that the European Parliament and Council have delegated to the European Commission to implement by way of tertiary legislation with input from relevant experts.

Legislative functions are currently conferred on the Commission by EU legislation. They enable the Commission to set out the technical details of the regimes in what is known as tertiary legislation. The two instruments take those powers currently held by the Commission and transfer them to the appropriate Ministers in the UK. These instruments are therefore correcting measures enabled by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. As I have said, the crucial point is that they do not introduce new policy. They preserve the current animal, fish and plant health regimes and simply ensure that we continue to operate effectively.

The Animals (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 cover the area of animal health and welfare. They provide for legislative functions to be exercisable by UK authorities. The exercise of those functions will principally be by way of domestic secondary legislation by the appropriate authorities, made under the negative resolution procedure as they will involve minor technical amendments to the EU retained law. This instrument transfers existing functions currently conferred on the Commission in the areas of: animal transport—Regulations 2 and 6; livestock identification—Regulations 3 and 5; transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs—Regulation 4; seal products—Regulation 7; animal slaughter—Regulation 9; animal by-products or ABPs—Regulation 8 and 10; and zootechnical conditions— Regulation 11.

These functions include matters such as: amending implementation rules and procedures when amending detailed rules of sampling and laboratory methods; approval of new scientific disease-related tests; revisions to disease monitoring and surveillance; setting down rules for breeding programmes to recognise disease resistance in livestock; determining feed safety practices; amendment of training and educational programmes; and the uniform application of disease contingency plans. They also include the power to amend the welfare requirements for transporting live animals and methods of animal slaughter to take account of scientific and technical progress.

Regulation 12, “Saving and transitional provision” is a cross-cutting regulation applying across this instrument. It contains transitional and saving provisions relating to standard form documents. For example, although new forms will be introduced for the UK, under these regulations, it will also be permissible to use the current EU forms for several months after exit day.

Turning to the Aquatic Animal Health and Plant Health (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, there is one matter which I wish to draw to your Lordships’ attention. This relates to the Explanatory Memorandum, which has been amended. The amended version, which was published on Monday, merely deletes incorrect references to powers not included in the SI, and therefore does not affect the content of the SI. The first was about editing the criteria for listing diseases. This was not included in the SI as the focus of this instrument is to ensure day-one readiness. The power to amend the criteria is not required to be transferred as the current criteria are well-established and effective. The second change involved the power to set out detailed rules for the introduction into the EU of aquaculture animals and related products from third countries. This was moved from this instrument to the Import of and Trade in Animals and Animal Products (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which contain a number of similar amendments. The detailed rules on imports into the EU are currently set out by the Commission in model health certificates, and the proposed amendments remove these model health certificates from retained EU law and allow the Secretary of State and the devolved Administrations to publish new health certificates for imports into the UK. I hope your Lordships will accept my apologies for any inconvenience or confusion. None of this affects this SI, but I wanted to be straightforward and open about the changes.

This instrument also provides for a series of legislative functions currently conferred by European Union legislation upon the European Commission to be exercisable instead by Governments in the United Kingdom. The difference is that this instrument relates to EU directives while the previous instrument covers EU regulations. Directives are transposed into domestic law by regulations or, in some cases, primary legislation, when they come forward, so they are already on the statute book. However, the functions conferred on the Commission in those directives were not transposed as it would not have been appropriate to do so, but they are now being brought in by these regulations to the appropriate Ministers in the UK.

I reiterate my earlier point: Ministers will be able to make negative resolution statutory instruments only in specific procedural or technical matters that are laid down in the various legislative functions currently exercisable by the EU Commission. The new enabling powers will therefore be confined to only those matters that the European Parliament and European Council have delegated to the EU Commission to implement by way of tertiary legislation with input from relevant experts. As with the previous instrument, there is no change in policy.

This instrument relates to aquatic and animal health in Part 2, and plant health in part 3. The regulations relating to plant health do not extend to Scotland, as plant health is devolved and the Scottish Ministers have chosen to bring forward their own legislation to deal with deficiencies in their plant health legislation in Scotland.

In Part 2, which covers transferring functions relating to aquatic animal health, this instrument transfers existing European Commission legislative functions to appropriate UK Ministers. It will enable them to amend the list of diseases for disease control purposes, and to draw up and update lists of third countries, or parts of third countries, from which aquaculture animals and related products can be introduced into the UK, post exit.

In Part 3, which covers transferring functions relating to plant health, this instrument transfers the legislative functions to appropriate Ministers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make amendments keeping pace with developments in scientific knowledge or changes in risks to plant health. The appropriate Ministers will also be able to specify import conditions that apply to plants and plant products originating in a third country. This is important in enabling international trade based on assessment of risk. It also enables appropriate Ministers to put in place temporary emergency measures to prevent the introduction or spread of a plant pest.

As I have said, there is no lessening of our biosecurity controls. These measures will enable us to respond to emerging threats. These instruments are to ensure an operable legal framework is in place for exit day and make no policy changes. I beg to move.

My Lords, again I thank the Minister for his very clear and extensive exposition. I have one or two queries regarding the animals legislative functions regulations, particularly concerning regulation EC 999/2001, which concerns the prevention, control and eradication of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies—TSEs. Certain substitutions have been made under article 4—“Safeguard Measures”—on which I seek the Minister’s assurance. Specifically, in article 6, the appropriate authority is given any power to disapply the requirement for the annual monitoring programme under certain circumstances—a monitoring programme is required under current EU regulations—and in article 7, the appropriate authority can prescribe tolerated levels of “insignificant” amounts of animal protein in feeding stuffs.

Without seeing the original material, these sound a little concerning. Can the Minister assure us that they do not represent departures from the original legislation and would not leave us unaligned with current EU 27 regulations? That might create a prejudice against our livestock exports.

My Lords, these regulations are very technical and I congratulate my noble friend on moving them. I have a question that relates solely to the Animals (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, in particular to paragraph 7.9 on page 4 of the Explanatory Memorandum covering Regulation 9. This is the animal slaughter regulation which will transfer, as my noble friend has explained, the legislative functions from regulation EC 1007/ 2009. I notice that we are transferring the power specifically and allowing Defra, presumably, to,

“define the maximum numbers of poultry, hares and rabbits to be processed by low throughput slaughterhouses; and publish guidance”.

What is the average throughput of these animals at the moment? Is my noble friend minded to specify other categories as well?

Perhaps the Committee will permit me to make a general comment. I was in the European Parliament as a directly elected Member when we passed the original abattoir directive, as I think it was known. I argue that it was not the fault of MEPs that we applied that very restrictively in the UK. That led to a number of slaughterhouses closing. A point of principle has been established—I am sure my noble friend is wedded to it, as am I—that animals for human consumption should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible, yet we now find ourselves in a situation where we have a greatly reduced number of slaughterhouses. I had the privilege of representing two different areas, but for 18 years I represented next door to the joint largest livestock production area in the north of England. I believe that animals being transported further, because of the reduced number of slaughterhouses, was a factor in the foot and mouth disease epidemic. I hope that my noble friend will take this opportunity to say that we will draw the line and that we have no intention of reducing the number of slaughterhouses through this or any other regulation.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his detailed exposition of the extent of this legislation. It sounds as though the existing regime will transfer without too much of a hiccup in order to enforce the regulations. However, in declaring my interest as a livestock rearer and a farmer, I cannot resist pointing out that the existing system is not totally foolproof. This is really for another day, but we need to realise that certain diseases seem to slip in not just by midges being blown across from Europe. Two that affect sheep in particular which have come in are maedi visna and ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma—OPA. These diseases are now hidden in our own flocks and are very difficult to determine.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very helpful introduction, and for his time and that of his officials in producing the very helpful briefings we received prior to debating these statutory instruments. But yet again no impact assessment has been produced for them, as the Government believe there is no significant impact. This is not acceptable, since insufficient time is being allocated to allow proper scrutiny of the raft of Defra SIs in particular that are required to be passed before 29 March. Had the Government started this process earlier there would have been sufficient time for such impact assessments to have taken place, and for the public and politicians to be suitably reassured that no harm would occur. However, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that all our consideration of SIs should take place on the Floor of the House. That would be a very poor use of parliamentary time.

Although the first SI on aquatic animal health and plant health does not make changes to substantive policy content, there is always a risk of new disease and pest risks. The SI gives the Secretary of State powers to manage and prevent diseases and pests in aquatic plants and animals. It also allows the Secretary of State to amend lists of possible diseases and pests on the basis of evidence and bring about restrictions to stop imports if they are believed to be infected with these diseases and pests. However, there is little to say what the evidence base will be for amending lists of diseases and pests, or how this will impact on businesses and the voluntary sector. What type of evidence will be required and where that will come from?

As we are becoming somewhat used to, there are a whole host of delegated powers in this SI that allow the Secretary of State to amend lists of diseases as well as other things listed in Regulation 7 in Part 2. These powers are currently exercised by the Commission as delegated powers. However, the Government do not appear to be drawing back powers that should be held by Parliament. If the Government essentially intend to mirror the EU’s list of diseases and pests, could the Minister say what the point is in claiming back these functions? Surely this is the point of pooled sovereignty.

The list of diseases is transferred, with appropriate modifications, to the Secretary of State, Welsh Ministers, Scottish Ministers and Defra in the case of Northern Ireland to exercise in their respective areas. Could the Minister say what these appropriate modifications will be? The Secretary of State may also exercise the functions on behalf of a devolved Administration with their consent. There are several other powers under this directive that are not transferred via this instrument as they are not thought to be critical for day-one readiness and may be transferred in due course. Again, could the Minister say what these functions are and when they might be transferred?

The animals legislative functions SI covers the provision of a lot of animal regulation currently managed by the Commission to be given, again, to the Secretary of State, who may make amendments with the permission of the “appropriate Minister”. New article 2a as inserted by the SI gives a definition of the appropriate Minister, which includes the Welsh Ministers, the Scottish Ministers and Defra for Northern Ireland, as I said. However, the appropriate Minister has to give consent to the Secretary of State before changes can be made. Could the Minister say what contingencies are in place should such consent not be forthcoming from the Welsh and Scottish devolved Administrations? I presume is it expected that Defra, on behalf of Northern Ireland, will automatically give consent.

I am concerned that the transfer of these powers to the Secretary of State on animal welfare could lead to a watering down of our animal welfare regulations, which are currently some of the best in the world. They include the transportation requirements of animals, the level of checks carried out on livestock, limiting the amount of seal hunt products arriving on the market, and the maximum number of poultry, hares and rabbits to be processed by low-throughput slaughterhouses. As the noble Lord, Lord Trees, has said, it is extremely important to maintain the strictest regulations for TSE.

As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, flagged up, could the Minister say just how many hares and rabbits—particularly hares—are slaughtered through slaughterhouses? I am by no means an expert, but I have never heard of hares or rabbits being killed by slaughterhouses in this country. Our hare population, although recovering in some areas, is seriously under threat. The thought that these wild creatures will somehow be subject to a slaughterhouse production line is extremely concerning.

The Government continue to make encouraging noises about their commitment to animal welfare, but appear not to ensure that our current standards are enshrined in our law; they are subject to alteration by the Secretary of State. While the current incumbent is committed to animal welfare, we all know that Secretaries of State can come and go. It is a dangerous policy to allow these commitments to be the subject of individual personnel, as opposed to committed to law.

Finally, Regulation 13 allows for standard form documents, currently set out in retained EU legislation, to be used after exit day in the form they took before exit, if the appropriate authority or Minister determines that necessary. Can the Minister give an example of when it might not be necessary for this to happen?

Like many of my colleagues, I remain very concerned at the number of powers passed to the Secretary of State, which will not receive scrutiny in your Lordships’ House. I am aware that the deadline is coming towards us at the speed of a runaway train, but more thought to this process, far earlier, could have avoided this situation.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction today, and his courtesy in providing us with a pre-briefing. I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this discussion, and I refer to my entry in the register of interests. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, we reiterate our concern about the process for dealing with these SIs. Once again, we register our concern about the reliance on powers being granted to the Secretary of State without external scrutiny and challenge.

It seems a bit of an act of desperation to produce these composite SIs, which have completely different subject matters, particularly when there are other SIs in the pipeline covering more specific regulations relating to these individual topics. In retrospect, it will make it very difficult for people to navigate their way through all these different bits of legislation and the different SIs.

I turn to the aquatic animal health and plant health SI. We accept that, for the most part, the substance of this SI is non-contentious, but I have a few questions. First, this instrument transfers a number of technical legislative functions to the Secretary of State, but it also refers to “appropriate authority” and “other responsible authorities”, suggesting that these powers may be sub-delegated. If that is the case, to which public bodies do the Government propose to sub-delegate these powers? Assuming that these powers will be sub-delegated, will the public bodies have to report on their use of the powers under the relevant provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018?

The second issue is on plant health. The SI transfers responsibility to the Secretary of State for import restrictions and bans on plants and plant produce, as well as emergency measures for restrictions on imports to prevent plant pests being imported. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, this power is conferred,

“in light of developments in scientific or technical knowledge or technically justified and consistent with the risk to plant health”.

So far, so good, but could the Minister clarify how these functions will be carried out by the Secretary of State, which organisations will be authorised to make that scientific or technical assessment, what will the status be of any advice given in these circumstances, and what additional resources will be required to carry out these functions previously carried out by the EU Commission?

Finally, I have a question relating to the controls on disease in aquaculture animals. In Regulation 6, on page 3, reference is made to adding, varying or removing an exotic or non-exotic disease from the proscribed list. Obviously, we want to make sure that diseases harmful to aquatic animals are controlled and are not inadvertently spread from the EU or third countries, but the circumstances in which these controls are put in place in aquaculture seem to concentrate solely on the adverse economic impact and the likely production or export losses. There is no reference to the welfare or suffering of the species involved.

I realise I am treading on a controversial issue here, but should the Secretary of State not have a wider responsibility to ensure good animal husbandry and a disease-free environment for these fish regardless of the economic consequences? I realise that this SI transfers current EU regulations, but is this something that the Minister will aspire to address when the opportunity arises? I hope that when he replies he will take into account the increasing evidence that fish that are farmed in an aquaculture environment that most closely replicates their natural environment are kept disease free and are less stressed, more productive and more robust in the longer term, so there is a longer-term benefit all round.

Turning to the Animals (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations, again it would be helpful to know the appropriate authority in these regulations and the extent to which its advice is given independently and made public. I also have a few issues of detail to raise with the Minister. First, like the noble Lord, Lord Trees, I am concerned that the regulations on TSEs seem to water down the requirement in the annual monitoring programme to check animals in remote areas with low animal density. They also allow the overall programme to be revised based on a comprehensive risk analysis. Who will carry out this risk analysis and what organisations will be consulted before any changes are made?

The regulations also allow proteins derived from fish to be added to the feed of young ruminants based on a scientific assessment of their dietary needs. Will the Minister clarify who will be responsible for carrying out the scientific assessment? Does he accept that any relaxation of the current rules relating to TSEs should be made with extreme caution?

I refer the Minister to Regulation 7, which relates to the trade in seal products; I gave him notice of this question. As I read this regulation, it seems to water down our current ban on products derived from seal hunts. For,

“Commission shall adopt implementing acts”,

it substitutes,

“the Secretary of State may make regulations”.

It goes on:

“The Secretary of State may, by regulations … prohibit the placing on the market of seal products derived from seals killed as a result of a seal hunt conducted primarily for commercial reasons”.

What is intended to be achieved by that change and why do the regulations not spell out clearly a continued requirement to ban such products on the basis currently in operation in the EU? I look forward to his response on these issues.

My Lords, this has again been a very interesting and helpful debate. I understand that this is a subject that excites public concern and interest. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, was concerned about future Secretaries of State. This instrument is about a very distinct area of operability. Changes of the sort the noble Baroness was envisaging would come through a completely different route. The work we are doing today is very technical and is about issues that the European Parliament and Council have defined as being for the Commission to manage. These instruments are very tightly drawn. Therefore, any changes of the sort that the noble Baroness might be envisaging are not in them because they are not about changing policies in the areas that have come up in these regulations.

I turn to one issue immediately. I can safely say to your Lordships that I am extremely concerned about TSEs and extremely cautious. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised them. I want to make it absolutely clear that the TSE monitoring programme will not be watered down by the amendments; it will continue unchanged after we leave. Similarly, the Government have no plans to alter feeding stuffs regulations. These regulations exactly reflect the current EU programmes. Our existing monitoring programme for TSEs will remain at the current level, and we have no plans to change it. The Animal and Plant Health Agency is the national reference laboratory for TSEs and has the latest scientific evidence. I say that only to ensure that there is a recognition of the expertise that we have, as the noble Lord, Lord Trees, in particular, will know. Obviously one can never bind anyone else, but this is an area where, given what we have seen in a whole range of areas, we should always be extremely cautious.

As to whether there is any intention of loosening restrictions, the Government do not allow the feeding of fish meal to young ruminants and have no plans to alter that position. Again, any future changes would have to be based on a scientific assessment of the dietary needs of young ruminants and of the control aspects for permitting the young of ruminant species to be fed proteins derived from fish. However, as I said, this Government have no plans to alter the current situation.

I should have declared my farming interests and I apologise to your Lordships for not having done so.

Following the outbreaks of BSE and foot and mouth disease, which resulted from animal by-products entering the animal feed chain, in 2003 the EU implemented legislation to ensure the safe handling and disposal of animal by-products. The Government take very seriously the ever-present risk of the entry and spread of serious livestock disease. We all recall the pain and distress of those outbreaks. I can just remember the 1967 outbreak when I was at school. I was quite young, but I remember it very dramatically. There was also the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. I want to be absolutely emphatic on this issue. Although this instrument has nothing to do with these matters in terms of the policy, which is not being changed, we simply must not and will not relax our guard. High standards of biosecurity are essential.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell—I was going to say “my noble friend”—asked about rabbits and hares. Rabbit, and possibly hare, form a normal and much greater part of the diet in parts of the EU. There are currently no FSA-approved establishments for the slaughter of farmed rabbits or indeed hares—I have never even heard of hares being farmed. While the UK has a small rabbit farming industry, we are unaware of any commercial farms producing rabbits or hares for meat. Article 11 of directive 1099/2009 provides a derogation that currently allows farms to slaughter up to 10,000 rabbits, hares and poultry per annum outside an FSA-approved establishment, but there are currently no FSA-approved establishments here. This provision was brought back as part of that regime, but I am not sure it has a UK resonance. We have no plans to change any of the arrangements.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised animal slaughter and the closure of slaughterhouses—an issue that I understand well. We are working closely with the FSA and with industry, because we clearly recognise the desirability of two things: of animals always meeting a respectful end, and for them not to have to travel any further than is necessary. But we must also be mindful that in this country we require high standards of hygiene, cleanliness and safety, which we expect across all slaughterhouses. This is all eminently possible with all sizes of slaughterhouses, but again this is an issue which we will return to as a nation in other times.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to evidence particularly on diseases and pests. Our government agencies and expert committees have recognised expertise in undertaking risk assessments and advising Governments. They have been doing so for many years and will continue to offer this expert advice in collaboration with industry and scientific centres. I am sure the veterinary profession has always been part of this great firmament of experts. The agencies include the APHA—the Animal and Plant Health Agency—which safeguards animal and plant health through research, surveillance and inspection, and CEFAS, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, which does the same for aquatic animal health.

UK laboratories are recognised as the world leader in 21 areas of animal health science—more than any other EU member state. This recognition is effected by the World Organisation for Animal Health—the OIE—which includes our own APHA and CEFAS. The UK Government have their own officers, such as the government and departmental chief scientific advisers, the Chief Veterinary Officer and the Chief Plant Health Officer. Again, there are opportunities to work with world-class universities and other institutions.

We also have several working groups that provide advice in decision-making processes to all UK Governments—jointly as well as singly—including the national experts group, which, in the event of an outbreak of an exotic disease, provides UK policy teams and the CVOs with specific veterinary, technical and scientific advice and recommendations on the disease, its transmission and options for control. There is also the UK Surveillance Forum, which provides a structure and direction to develop a single view of the UK’s animal health status, and evidence to support it. Having worked with a number of these organisations, when I go to Europe there is a recognition of how world-leading we are in some of these areas. Borders and boundaries mean that whatever happens with future arrangements—I hope they are collaborative and strong—this is an area where partnership is clearly essential.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, took up the matter of the devolved Administrations. We are committed to working closely with devolved Administrations on an approach that works for all of the UK and reflects the interests of all four UK nations. We are working with other Administrations to agree the detail of the process for delivering joint decision-making. Where matters are devolved and an Administration decide they would like to take their own statutory instrument forward I personally think that we should respect the devolved arrangements, provided we keep within the same framework. The essential thing is that the experience of all of this is done in a collaborative spirit of wanting to have a common framework, even if an Administration sometimes want to bring in their own SI.

On standard forms, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, the intention is to allow trade to flow and not to interrupt it with unnecessary bureaucratic insistence on specific forms. There are likely to be perfectly understandable cases when the trader has completed the wrong form—the one that applied before we left—and this might be in cases of goods already in transit. In other words, we want pragmatism and common sense to prevail.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised good husbandry. I understand why she did, not only because it applies to any animal but because it is the right thing to do. As the noble Baroness outlined, if you look after your stock, they will have a good reputation and will sell well. I have never understood why anyone would think it a good idea to bring indifferent stock to market, with the reputation that provides.

Going back to fish, some areas are already on our statute book. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 protects fish under control of humans from unnecessary suffering and places a duty on the person responsible for them to ensure that the needs of the fish are met. The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 applies specific welfare requirements when fish are being transported for commercial purposes, and EU regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing sets obligations to spare fish any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during killing or related operations. This will become retained EU law in our own arrangements. APHA and local authority inspectors have official responsibility for the enforcement of animal welfare legislation on fish farms.

On the question of which powers in aquatics and plants we have not transferred, no one could want a tidier life on these matters more than me, but there are further powers under the plant health directive and the aquatic animal health directive—for example, the power to amend the criteria for listing diseases. I have no doubt that attention will be paid to those matters. We face the dilemma of wanting to get as many of the things that are ready debated, but I understand that your Lordships are extremely busy and we want to ensure that these instruments are grouped as effectively as we can possibly manage. I know my noble friend Lady Vere and I feel as strongly as your Lordships about that.

On the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, on seal products, I want to make it very clear that the regulations make operability changes and do not amend current restrictions or exemptions. The ban on importation of seal products into the EU is maintained in the UK. There is currently a derogation that permits the marketing of seal products from the hunts of Inuits and other indigenous communities when they are conducted for and contribute to the subsistence of those communities. This does not extend to those carried out primarily for commercial reasons. Currently, the European Commission has the power to prohibit or limit seal products placed on the market from Inuit hunts when evidence subsequently comes to light that they were actually from a commercial operation. Regulation 7(2)(b) will amend article 3(5) of the retained EU regulation to transfer this power from the European Commission to the Secretary of State. This will enable the Secretary of State to take appropriate action to restrict the marketing of seal products, should evidence come to light that they do not meet the derogation. Again, this is not, in absolutely any way, a diminution; it is to enable the Secretary of State to do what the Commission could have done, if evidence was to emerge.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, made a point on aquaculture and risk of disease. Most aquaculture production in the UK takes place in so-called open systems where fresh water is abstracted from rivers directed through aquaculture sites. In the case of marine aquaculture, aquatic animals are placed in rearing units immersed in seawater. Therefore, there is a potential for pathogens to be passed from wild aquatic animals to farmed aquatic animals, and vice versa. The main way to minimise the risk of pathogen spread is to prevent the introductions of the pathogens in the first place. Indeed, the UK applies strict rules to minimise the risk of pathogen introduction via trade in live aquatic animals. For example, aquatic animals imported into the UK for aquaculture purposes can be imported only if they come from areas that are shown to be free from those pathogens that the UK has declared free from.

My noble friend the Duke of Montrose was absolutely right: we are transferring through the withdrawal Act 2018 all the guts of these many regulations, which are the foundation of how we do things with animals, and aquatics and plant health. These two instruments ensure that, where there are distinct issues where the Commission was previously permitted to act, the regulation-making powers are conferred on appropriate authorities—the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, mentioned this point. For aquatic animal health, these are the Secretary of State in England, Welsh Ministers in Wales, Scottish Ministers in Scotland, and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland. In other words, the “appropriate authority” is the appropriate Minister. It may be that, in the varying terms, they are the same thing, but I will look at that.

I will also look into the sheep matters for my noble friend the Duke of Montrose. Although it is somewhat different from these two particular instruments, it is really important that that is reflected. Some of the issues raised may well have gone beyond the precision of these two instruments, but I will look to see whether there are any particular questions or details, either within this instrument or beyond, that I may not have fully attended to. On this occasion, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.