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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Volume 796: debated on Wednesday 13 March 2019

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Relevant document: 19th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)

My Lords, these regulations group elements of six policy regimes: natural mineral waters, spirit drinks, food labelling, wines, genetically modified organisms and animal imports. The purpose of this statutory instrument is to make purely technical or operability corrections to ensure that these regimes continue to function as intended. These corrections deal with removing or amending references to EU directives, removing or amending EU references, converting EU procedures to UK procedures and transferring EU functions to the UK.

This instrument allows the recognition of existing natural mineral waters from the EU, Iceland and Norway to continue on a transitional provision for at least six months, thereby maintaining the status quo immediately before exit day. This instrument also provides power to the Secretary of State to withdraw recognition of existing EU natural mineral waters after a period of notice if the EU was not to reciprocate and recognise UK natural mineral waters. Of course, we hope that the EU will recognise our mineral waters in good faith, as indeed we are doing.

With the exception of the Secretary of State’s powers over recognition of natural mineral waters, this instrument makes no further substantive changes. Without this provision, existing natural mineral waters which obtained recognition in or by a member state in the EEA would not have the right to be legally sold in England, irrespective of the Secretary of State’s powers to regulate this field. That would lead to restricted consumer choice in the UK, where one in three bottles of natural mineral water are of EU origin, and changes to product prices due to market forces. We have therefore taken a pragmatic view on that matter, and it is necessary that we do so.

The statutory instrument will also ensure that we have a fully functioning scheme for spirit drinks’ geographical indications, allowing us to register and amend applications. This is particularly important for Scotch whisky, which in 2018 had a record £4.7 billion-worth of exports. Although these exports would not directly be put in jeopardy without this SI, the industry would lose the ability to amend the Scotch whisky technical file to better reflect industry practice. The technical file is the document which provides the technical specifications for products using the Scotch whisky GI name: for example, production process, geographical area, specific labelling rules and so forth. This SI amends the applicable regulation to transfer functions from the European Commission to the Secretary of State.

On food labelling, this SI transfers a series of legislative functions which are currently conferred upon the European Commission so that they will instead be exercisable here in the UK. Transferring the functions means that we can make important changes concerning how certain pieces of information can be presented to the consumer. These powers currently sit with the EU Commission and ensure that we would not require new primary legislation to, for example, update the list of allergens that must be labelled on prepacked food or change the way that nutritional values are presented.

The SI also transfers the power to make rules for the production processes used to make aromatised wines, as well as rules on methods of analysis and administrative and physical checks, and transfers powers on wine relating to GI applications from the EU to the Secretary of State. It allows us to update laws in relation to the production and analysis arrangements for aromatised wine by means of regulations. It will also enable us to consider applications for new wine GIs and deal with applications to amend and cancel wine GIs on the UK wines GI register. Without doing so, key aspects of our wine quality policy would become inoperative, which would put us in breach of the WTO provisions. It also rolls over the framework for how producers protect geographical indications for aromatised wines, as well as the mechanisms to control the production and use of those geographical indications.

For genetically modified organisms, the SI makes purely technical changes to keep legislation operable on exit. I emphasise that there are no policy changes. It makes operability changes to transfer existing powers from the EU to the Secretary of State, thereby allowing the Secretary of State to develop technical statutory guidance on sampling and testing for the presence of GMOs, to amend the threshold above which products must comply with traceability and labelling requirements, and to apply unique identifying codes to GMOs. This will ensure that we can continue to enforce the rigorous rules governing genetically modified organisms.

Finally, this SI amends animal health provisions. It makes operable provisions relating to the import of cattle semen, pig semen and horse semen, ova and embryos. These amendments are purely technical, and preserve the current regime for imports and for protecting the UK’s biosecurity. The SI also makes minor operability amendments to two other animal health provisions, one laying down a health certificate used to ensure the health status of certain imports of live animals and products of animal origin, and the other making provision for the appropriate UK authority to publish approved lists of border inspection posts relating to the movement of animals and animal products. In both cases, the amendments are minor and technical and do not introduce any new policy.

Defra has consulted the devolved Administrations on the amendments in this instrument and they have consented to its coming into force. The instrument concerns changes for the United Kingdom except as regards natural mineral waters—those apply only to England—and decisions on GMOs, which are a devolved matter for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. As the natural mineral waters amendments apply only to England, each devolved Administration would have to provide their own equivalent amendments to their respective natural mineral waters regulations. We expect the devolved Administrations to mirror the same policy position, but they have yet to lay their respective provisions in legislation.

Amendments made to Regulation (EC) No. 1830/2003 on the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms will apply to the UK. They respect that decisions on GMOs are a devolved matter.

The natural mineral water policy decisions were subject to a public consultation, which ran from 16 October to 13 November last year. Defra engaged all major stakeholders in the process throughout 2018, from individual companies to industry bodies. We have also written to the main stakeholders to explain the implications of the instrument.

These measures will ensure that the policy regimes for natural mineral waters, spirit drinks, food labelling, wine, aromatised wine, GMOs and animal imports remain able to operate. With the exception of natural mineral waters, where we have consulted extensively, this instrument makes technical or operability corrections ensuring that these regimes continue to function as intended. I beg to move.

My Lords, I welcome the regulations, and given my heritage—born in Edinburgh—find particularly pleasing those concerning Scotch whisky exports, which obviously boost trade for the whole country.

From my Question earlier this week, the Minister will be aware of my interest in traceability and labelling. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore it then. I am grateful to him for setting out the thrust of the statutory instrument. He went to some length to explain that this instrument is technical in nature and makes no public policy changes, but he will be aware of the fact that the 19th report of Sub-Committee B of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee states very clearly that the regulations give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House. Therefore I am grateful that we are having the opportunity to debate them today.

North Yorkshire is still smarting from the fact that Shepherds Purse Cheeses used to produce a very popular cheese called Yorkshire Feta, which, not being produced in Greece, fell foul of the GI, and so for a time was called Yorkshire Fettle. To my embarrassment, I am unsure how it is marketed now.

Can the Minister provide an assurance that we will continue to follow the Cocoa and Chocolate Products (England) Regulations 2003? I do not necessarily blame the Government for the volatility of the pound, but we have seen changes to the pound since the result of the referendum was known, and, over the last two weeks, increasingly volatility. This has huge implications for cocoa and chocolate products. The Minister will be aware, for example—without naming a producer, because other products are available—that we tend to introduce milk chocolate here with a lower cocoa content and a higher oil vegetable fat content. I am seeking an assurance that we will continue to be aligned with the European Union rules regarding cocoa and chocolate products, and in particular, their content, insofar as these regulations relate to that.

I thank the Minister for introducing the first of these amendments. I have two issues that I should like to follow up on. The first is about geographical indication. I see from the brief that the UK has some 86 product names already in being; it cites Scotch whisky, Welsh lamb and Cornish pasties. I would love to have had Stilton cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies in there, coming as I do from the Leicestershire end. Can the Minister clarify that this will in no way restrict new products from becoming listed?

Secondly, I am grateful for what he said on the GMOs, and accept the importance of labelling. But again, looking to the future with the same rigour, I trust that new developments will not be precluded. Again, I should like some clarification, but I welcome this amendment.

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for his characteristically clear explanation of this SI. I have just a few queries on which I should appreciate his assurance. First, under Part 4, Regulation (EC) No. 1830/2003 concerning genetically modified organisms, Article 4 refers to amending thresholds for release of GMOs into the environment.

Do the Government intend to alter thresholds? Under what circumstances might that be done? Who will ultimately decide what future thresholds will be? I certainly do not want to preclude novel developments; I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, on that.

Part 5 covers Commission decision 2009/821/EC, which refers to border inspection posts and TRACES, the Trade Control and Expert System, for notification of imports and so on. How many border inspection posts are there currently? Are there plans for any more? Can we be assured that the number is adequate to deal with any Brexit scenario?

Secondly, I understand that TRACES will be replaced by a British system. I believe it is called the Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System, with the natty acronym IPAFFS. When will that be operational? Will it be by 29 March?

My Lords, I also thank the Minister for his introduction and for the time of his officials in the briefing. This SI was originally scheduled to be a negative instrument, but was upgraded to an affirmative instrument after Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Sub-Committee B had completed its sifting process. This was a wise decision, as some significant changes are covered in this SI—not least on natural mineral waters, but also on geographical indications and GMOs. It is all about environmental protection, food and intellectual property. The last, in particular, will have significant impacts in some areas of the UK.

As the Minister said, this is a transfer of functions and there will be mutual recognition between the UK and the EU from day one. However, unless I have misunderstood it, there will be a six-month transition period during which imported EU mineral waters will not be able to be labelled “mineral water” and recognised for sale in the UK. As the Minister said, these EU mineral waters represent approximately 30% of UK market sales. There will therefore be a gap in the market, which it is unlikely our own UK mineral water bottlers will be able to fill. Our own mineral waters are very specific to geographic areas—Highland Spring, Buxton and Glastonbury Chalice Well being three. My husband comes from Derbyshire, so my preference is for Buxton when I can get it. If the EU’s Volvic, Evian and Pellegrino mineral waters are not available, the UK consumer may find they are unable to buy an alternative as demand will outstrip the supply of our production.

At the end of the six-month transition period, an EU-based mineral water company can reapply for permission to import into the UK. It will be up to the Secretary of State to either withdraw or grant such permission. If I have understood it correctly, if any EU state recognises our UK mineral water, the Secretary of State cannot withdraw an EU water company’s permission. It will be up to his or her discretion. Is it likely that many EU mineral water companies may not bother to reapply? On the upside, if one of the EU countries recognises a UK-based mineral water, all 27 will have to do the same—so markets will be opened up. Likewise, if one of the devolved Administrations permits an EU mineral water company to import its products, the other three will also permit it to be imported.

I turn now to the question of geographical indication, or GIs, about which we have had some discussion. This is a wide classification including Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, Cornish pasties, Wensleydale cheese and Camel Valley wines. These are extremely important to the economy of the areas that produce this fine food and drink. Paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum indicates that there will be no change to description and labelling. I look to the Minister to give reassurance that the status of iconic GIs will not be diminished but protected after we have left the EU.

The labelling of local produce is extremely important, especially to the farming community, where lamb and beef in particular command a high price if they come from certain breeds and areas of the country, such as salt-marsh Welsh lamb.

Food labelling is of particular interest to me as someone who reads all the labels of foods that contain more than one product. As a lifelong coeliac, I look out for wheat-based and gluten-containing products in everything. The current labelling system, whereby allergens are highlighted in bold, is extremely useful, as the allergens leap out at you and you do not have to read all the ingredients in depth. Often, there is a gluten-free, crossed-grain symbol on the front of the product; thus I can safely buy sausages from two well-known food retailers without having to refer to the small print on the back.

I am not alone in meticulously reading ingredient labels. I therefore ask the Minister to give his reassurance that there will be no watering down of the regulations once exit day has passed. As we all know, poor labelling has become a matter of life or death for some. A review of labelling will need to ensure more stringent regulations, not a watering down of existing ones.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction this afternoon and for the courtesy of meeting us beforehand. This SI covers a wide range of issues and has all the hallmarks of a hurried amalgamation of outstanding issues which have to be cleared before Brexit day. I hope that stakeholders and businesses with an interest in the content can find the relevant changes buried away in this SI, with its rather unenlightening title concerning intellectual property, which seems to cover a lot of sins that are not immediately obvious.

I also make the point that the amendments to Commission decision 2009/821/EC concerning border inspection posts, and those referring to health certificates, should have been dealt with as part of the earlier SI on the import and trade in animals and animal products. I am not sure why they have been tagged on here in this way.

Incidentally, on this subject, I am grateful to the Minister for writing a follow-up letter on the questions raised by my noble friend Lord Knight and others when we dealt with that more substantial SI a couple of weeks ago. I am aware the Government have today published technical information on imports between Northern Ireland and the Republic. However, in the case of animals crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic—in other words, those being exported—the letter confirmed a rather alarming fact. Without a deal, all animals seeking to enter the EU—the Republic of Ireland—would have to do so via an EU border inspection post, with locations that are yet to be decided.

The Minister’s letter also confirmed that, while the Government continue to engage constructively with Ireland—as has been a common theme in debates on other SIs—there are in fact restrictions on the UK having bilateral discussions with EU member states. There is therefore only a limited amount of progress that can be made between the UK and the Republic of Ireland at this point. I do not want to dwell too much on this today as it is not the main subject of the SI, but it must be extremely unsatisfactory for farmers in Northern Ireland, who will face extreme restrictions on exporting to the south. I hope the Minister can provide reassurance to those farmers that urgent steps are being taken to make sure that the border inspection posts and all other means to ease exporting are put in place as soon as possible.

As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, the SI before us was drawn to the special attention of the House by scrutiny Sub-Committee B. I agree with her: this raises important issues of public policy, particularly as it affects consumers’ rights and choice. I had not picked up the issue of chocolate but, now she has raised it, I too would like to know whether the price and availability of cocoa and chocolate will be affected—I certainly have great interest in the Minister’s answer.

As has been said, the SI sets out new regulations for accrediting natural mineral water. As the Explanatory Memorandum sets out, the amendments will maintain the existing recognition of mineral waters from the EU, Iceland and Norway, which would ensure market stability, continued trade and consumer choice. Given that we export and import mineral water to and from the EU, this is obviously a sensible provision, but the SI also seems to contain an open threat which I have not seen before in SIs dealing with traded goods. It says that if the Secretary of State finds that there is at least one UK mineral water that is not being recognised in any member state in the EU, then all accreditation for all EU mineral waters in the UK will cease, effectively forthwith. The effect of this would be that all EU mineral waters, including some very big brands that have been referred to, would not be able to be sold in the UK as natural mineral water. Is this negotiating tactic being adopted more widely? Is this the way we are going to do our future trade talks with the EU? Have the consequences been considered and discussed with UK mineral water exporters? I understand that they do not export as much as we import, but they would no doubt find that all their export opportunities to the EU would be cut off if we were to operate such a tit-for-tat approach. Is this a tactic with which they agree?

Has any consideration been given to the impact that this would have on consumer choice? We might all say that we should not import water, particularly not in plastic bottles, from the EU or anywhere else—the Minister has said before that London tap is a very fine brand and we should all drink that—but there is an issue about consumer choice. When we ask consumers, they all have their very strong preferences and preferred brands and it is important that we are clear about the consequences. Also, he said that this is a devolved issue. In fact, this provision is an England-only provision, so could we find that, for example, Evian water was available in Scotland and Wales but not in England? I think that he probably has an answer, but it is important that that is recorded so that we are clear on the legal position.

I turn to the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks. The regulations transfer authority for registering geographical indication from the EU to the Secretary of State, as the Minister said. I think I am right in saying that there has been some sensitivity around these designations in the EU in the past. Certainly, the EU has been seen to be operating the rules in quite a stringent way, so it is not easy to get a geographical indication. That may be a good thing, but what type of objections to GI status would we be considering under the new regime? Will they be similarly stringent, in the way that the EU currently operates, or do we envisage relaxing the rules in some way? If we had different rules in the UK from those that would continue to be operated in the EU, could it have an effect on the export market of our drinks producers? If we were more relaxed about it and yet wanted to export Scotch whisky, could the EU say that, because we have not abided by the EU standards of GIs, we could no longer export to the EU?

There are obvious advantages to expanding our GIs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said—to celebrate regional and local provenance—and we all understand how advantageous that would be in many ways. What we do not want to do is to cut off our nose to spite our face and find that our exports are damaged in some way.

Can the Minister also tell us which organisations will be expected to advise the Secretary of State on the validity of any new applications? Which authoritative body, given that this has not been the Secretary of State, is going to be the expert on applications for geographical indications?

The Secretary of State is given new powers to specify portion size and dietary recommendations on food labels. The EM also makes it clear that they would be given greater powers to update the list of allergens on the label. Clearly, this would be welcome in many regards as we need to give consumers better information and advice. However, have the consequences of a separate UK labelling regime been discussed with the food industry? Does it have concerns that this might add to the level of regulation or that it might be asked to have different labelling for different markets? What is the extent to which it would like a uniform system for labelling or is prepared to have a specific, bespoke UK labelling system?

Finally, I would like to know more about genetically modified organisms. Several other noble Lords have raised this as well. The proposals give the Secretary of State new powers to amend the threshold below which products containing GMOs do not need to be labelled. The EM goes on to say that, in doing so, the Secretary of State is required to consult the relevant food standards authority. The Minister will know that this is a very sensitive subject that raises a great deal of public concern, so it is important that we receive reassurance about the Secretary of State’s motives in seeking these changes. The Explanatory Memorandum says that companies and a selection of NGOs and campaign groups were consulted and no significant concerns were raised. What does this mean in practice? Does it mean that they supported the proposals? If there were to be a change in this policy in the future I would hope that there would be wider public consultation, given the sensitivities around it, rather than just with a food standards body, which is what is implied in the SI as it stands.

Moreover, what practical considerations have been made for this being an England- only regulation? This means that the devolved nations could take a different view, leading to separate food labelling policies across the four nations, again with all the complications that could result in for the business sector and food producers. I look forward to the Minister’s response on these issues.

My Lords, I am most grateful for all the comments that have been made. I agree that they cover issues beyond the statutory instrument, which, as I said, enables regimes to be operable. The subject matters are very important. I can say immediately to my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that, yes, we will continue to follow the Cocoa and Chocolate Products (England) Regulations 2003. Of course, the whole proposal for beyond this afternoon’s debate is that we are not seeking, with these SIs coming through the withdrawal Act, to have any policy changes at all. We will continue with that.

On the question of geographical indications, on which a number of points were made, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lady Byford that, perhaps of the 86, Stilton was definitely most worthy of comment. However, I think that all of us, and beyond, recognise that we have some extraordinarily wonderful produce from all parts of the United Kingdom. We should celebrate them. I assure your Lordships that the GI schemes that will come into force in the UK on the day that we leave the EU will guarantee that UK GIs will remain fully protected in the UK. There is absolutely no question that suddenly these extraordinarily important products would have to share their centuries-old heritage with others.

The forthcoming GI legislation will also ensure that the UK continues to comply with these obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization, including under the TRIPS agreement on intellectual property. That is vital in empowering the UK to strike new trade deals with other countries, a number of which are due to come into force on exit day. Yes, we wish to cherish the GIs that we have, but we also see every merit—I am sure that this is the case around the world—in ensuring that there is scope for new produce to be a celebration of wherever it comes, as in this country.

A number of points were raised on GMOs. Although this is about operability, a number of your Lordships raised the issue more generally. An important point was made about the ability to make changes to allow the UK to keep pace with technological advances and labelling requirements in the international arena. It is important that we are in a position, through this SI and beyond, to ensure that we can attend to any necessary changes. The devolved Administrations may make their own amendments or, as we have often seen with these SIs—I think that this will continue—the Secretary of State may do so on DAs’ behalf with their agreement.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about expertise in this area, as did the noble Lord, Lord Trees, my noble friend Lady Byford and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. The current situation is that the European Food Safety Authority issues an opinion on an application. For the UK, the EFSA opinion is considered by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment. ACRE is a statutory body of experts providing independent scientific advice to UK Ministers on potential risk to the environment caused by any GMO.

To emphasise the importance of the scientists involved, I can report that ACRE comprises nine independent scientists with expertise in a range of disciplines, including ecology, microbiology, entomology, soil biology and biochemistry, plant pathology, genetics and plant biochemistry, medical microbiology and human infection, molecular biology, genomics and systems biology and synthetic biology. The Food Standards Agency considers the application in terms of safety as food and feed. ACRE’s advice informs the UK’s vote from the environmental perspective. That is how it has been, with that statutory body of experts.

Going forward, EFSA’s opinions are publicly available, so we will continue to have access to them, and ACRE will continue to advise the UK Government on the environmental aspects of applications made for, for example, any GM crop. The final decision will now be made, as I say, in the United Kingdom, but I emphasise that the Government place the greatest importance on environmental protection, all of it based on independent scientific expertise of the range that I outlined—I am sorry that it took a little time, but I wanted your Lordships to know that the range of expertise covers almost every area that could be interconnected with these matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, raised the question of inspections. On imports from the EU, we have decided that the risk will not change on day one. There may not be reciprocity but we will not change our arrangements, because we do not believe that there are any new risks to UK biosecurity. The only additional inspections that we will have for imports will apply to live animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin that originates from a third country and travels through the EU before arriving in the UK. We are considering options to minimise regulatory duplication for transits entering the UK via the EU, and I confirm that there will be no change to the level of expertise required at UK BIPs. We are conscious of the flow of trade, but we need to base all our judgments on biosecurity risk as well. The Chief Veterinary Office, who constantly advises me and the Government on such matters, is absolutely clear that there is no risk.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Trees, raised a number of other points. I absolutely understand the sensitivities of the Northern Ireland issue. I emphasise that we remain focused on securing a deal that will guarantee no hard border. We have always been clear that the unique social, political and economic circumstances of Northern Ireland must be reflected in any arrangements that could apply in a no-deal scenario. In the event of no deal, we will do everything possible to avoid a hard border between the north and the Republic and to uphold the Good Friday agreement. Therefore, today we confirm a unilateral approach to checks, processes and tariffs. That approach will of course be temporary, but if there is no deal we will not introduce any new checks or controls on goods crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland, including any new customs declarations for goods.

I obviously hope very much that the same will be reflected by the EU and the Republic but, as I said during Questions earlier this week, a deal involves two parties. In making that pragmatic decision, we have behaved correctly. We have been told that there will not be reciprocity on natural mineral water, but we took the view that we would continue to accept it from the EU. Yes, that recognises consumer choice but it is important to recognise our pragmatic approach. There is absolutely no intention to see some trade war or dispute emerge. We are clear that the Secretary of State has the ability to withdraw recognition but, in practical terms, with this SI and beyond we have seen a collaborative approach between all home countries. That is the point rightly raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. After the guaranteed first six months of rolled-over recognition, all the home countries would need to agree—I hope that it will not be the case, but this is the provision—that there might be a time to give notice, as stated in the instrument, and how long that notice would be. Again, I say that the UK has been pragmatic and certainly does not seek anything other than a meaningful and strong relationship in this case, the drinking of natural mineral water. I absolutely endorse what the noble Baroness said: I find it curious how much water we import. Think of the imported water miles, when we have Buxton, Highland Spring and Welsh water—

And Harrogate Spring Water; I thank my noble friend. I do not say this to encourage a feeling that I am against EU produce, but I think that the British Government have taken a very pragmatic approach to an issue that I very much hope does not transpire and that we can find satisfactory arrangements.

On the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, on trade, I very much hope that EU companies would consider applying, if that were to be the case. The Government support consumer choice; that is very important. I am mindful, however, of what I have said about London tap water and other wonderful waters from all parts of the United Kingdom. Looking at the noble Lord, Lord Beith, I think of some very fine water from Northumbria. Around our country, we have these great examples. On the issue of labelling, as we know, following the death of Natasha, the Secretary of State embarked on a consultation so that people can know much more about what is in made-up food. A lot is happening, thank goodness, voluntarily, but we are having this consultation because we take very seriously the need for consumers to have all the information they desire and need.

The instrument does not amend food labelling rules—it is not intended to; it is about temporary fixes to operability. On the issue of Northern Ireland borders, only a limited range of goods will need to enter the UK, including Northern Ireland, through a border inspection post. The purpose is to protect human, animal and plant health after we have left. In a no-deal scenario, animals and animal products from countries outside the EU would need to enter Northern Ireland through a UK border inspection post, as is the case now. We will always keep our biosecurity analysed for risk.

Clearly, we are also committed as a Government to continue discussions with the Commission and the Irish Government to jointly agree long-term measures to avoid a hard border, which we strongly desire to avoid, and to limit the impact on life on the island of Ireland, which is crucial.

There may be other key points. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked about BIP capacity. It is considered sufficient. There are 25 UK BIPS. The estimate is for an extra 8,000 checks at UK BIPS. Port health authorities—I have quizzed this myself—have confirmed that they can meet that extra demand with existing food inspectors. Ports are developing more capacity to deal with it. I know that work is in progress at Calais, at Coquelles. A lot of work is going on.

I am looking for other key points that I should answer. On the issue of consultation on food labelling, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, Defra has raised stakeholder awareness of the food labelling technical notices of last September and of the amending of food labelling laws consultation, which I mentioned. Defra Ministers have engaged many times with key stakeholders externally to the consultation.

The instrument is about technical operability, with the exception of natural mineral waters. All these areas are technical, so on the precise instrument, the answer is that it was not necessary. However, I would like to say—and perhaps will write to noble Lords about this—that there are many instances of ongoing engagement on spirit and drinks, food labelling, GMOs, animal imports and working with importers. There has also been, to date, engagement with 300 stakeholders covering 50 events. Therefore, beyond these statutory instruments, a very considerable amount of consultation and working with others has been undertaken.

This may be the last point. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raised a question about separate food labelling across the devolved Administrations. Clearly we have to respect the devolved arrangements and food labelling is devolved, but it is fair to say that all four parts of the kingdom are working together very closely to ensure that there is no disruption to the UK internal market in the event of a no-deal scenario, or indeed any scenario. I think that there is a recognition among all parts of the kingdom that the internal market within the UK is tremendously important and that we should work collaboratively. The evidence I have from all the SIs, on these matters and beyond, is that sense and pragmatism is prevailing.

I will study Hansard again, because there may be some points in the many questions I have sought to answer that noble Lords would like more detailed answers on.

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister as he gathers his final thoughts, but it was remiss of me, since we strayed into the science of GMOs, not to have declared as interest as the chair of Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, part of Rothamsted Research, which does research into GMOs.

I am a member of the All-Party Group on whisky and food, do receive hospitality, and had dinner with a chocolate company, which was not concerned by what we have discussed today.

Perhaps by writing I could have an answer to the question on when the replacement for TRACES might be operational.

The successor to TRACES, IPAFFS, was launched on private beta on 14 February, for organisations with the greatest need. It will be operable for all third-country exports from the day we leave. We intend a separate system for imports from the EU, with IPAS coming into play in the summer, I think. I would not like to give a precise date, but obviously we want this working effectively, and I will write to the noble Lord—

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

Motion agreed.