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Plant Health (Amendment) (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Volume 796: debated on Monday 25 March 2019

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Plant Health (Amendment) (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Relevant document: 13th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)

My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. I hope that it will be helpful to your Lordships if I speak also to the Plant Health (Amendment) (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, with which this instrument has been grouped.

These two regulations amend existing domestic legislation implementing the EU’s plant health directive and provide the basis to maintain plant biosecurity when we leave the EU. The plant health directive is implemented in England by the Plant Health (England) Order 2015 and, in relation to forestry matters, by the Plant Health (Forestry) Order 2005, which extends to Great Britain. The existing orders set out obligations for the control and management of plant health risks arising from the import from third countries and movement within the EU single market of plant material, in order to protect biosecurity.

It is our responsibility—particularly mine in my role as Minister for Biosecurity—to protect biosecurity across plant and animal health and the wider ecosystem. It is also important that we have a robust process of ongoing review to strengthen biosecurity protections where this is possible and necessary. The regulations debated today are specifically about protecting plant biosecurity. The amendments address technical deficiencies and inoperability issues relating to retained EU law on plant health that will otherwise arise when we leave.

I should make it clear that although businesses will see some changes to import arrangements, they are risk-focused and avoid unnecessary new burdens while, importantly, preserving the current plant health regime’s overall aim of preventing and managing pest and disease threats. They do not diminish our controls in this important subject area but seek to protect biosecurity while continuing to facilitate trade in plant material.

The main purpose of the Plant Health (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 is to set out the list of harmful pests and plant material that will continue to be regulated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from exit day. This is the same list of pests and plant material from the EU plant health directive, which we have transposed into our existing legislation, and includes harmful pests that we want to stay free from, such as xylella fastidiosa. The instrument also sets out amendments to deal with technical deficiencies in retained, directly applicable EU legislation to ensure that plant health legislation operates effectively. For example, it provides for the existing derogations to facilitate the import of specified material, such as bonsai plants from Japan, to ensure that this trade can continue under the same stringent quarantine conditions after exit.

Similarly, the instrument sets out the actions required by UK plant health authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to control certain pests in the event of outbreaks. The provisions cover matters such as official surveys and eradication measures that currently apply to competent authorities under EU emergency legislation. For this instrument, the plant health authority is the Secretary of State in relation to England and Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales, with delivery in both countries undertaken by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. In Northern Ireland, authority and delivery currently rests with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. For timber and forest pests in England, the Forestry Commission is the relevant authority.

In addition, plant pest and disease experts in Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Forestry Commission, with support from Forest Research and Fera, will continue to work together, providing an exceptional capability to advise Ministers, manage risks and control outbreaks. As part of EU exit planning, we have increased our capability and capacity in the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which is nearly doubling the number of plant health inspectors from 118 to 227. The new inspectors are currently being trained to be ready for when we leave. We continue to keep under review whether we need to strengthen further our capacity in this important area of biosecurity protection.

Plant health is devolved. The devolved Administrations have worked closely together in developing their EU exit legislation to ensure a co-ordinated approach. As a result, these regulations apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scottish Ministers have decided to introduce separate legislation in Scotland, and their equivalent legislation will give effect to UK-wide arrangements. In practice, this means that we have a common list of regulated pests and plant material across the United Kingdom.

One of the main purposes of the Plant Health (Amendment) (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 is to correct technical deficiencies in our domestic legislation after exit. For example, they remove references to EU legislation and revise definitions to be UK-based instead of EU-based. The instrument also transposes provisions in certain Council directives in relation to the control of relevant potato pests, adding to the provisions already transposed in our existing domestic plant health legislation. These additional provisions mainly cover official activities that competent plant health authorities are required to carry out under these directives, such as official surveys and monitoring for the presence of the pests. The aim is to provide clarity to third countries that, following exit, the UK will continue to maintain the same rigorous control over the production of potatoes.

In relation to the changes to import arrangements I highlighted earlier, there are two aspects in this instrument. First, regulated plant material, such as ornamental plants in pots intended for commercial planting and certain trees and shrubs, that currently enters the UK from the EU or Switzerland with an EU or Swiss plant passport will in future require a phytosanitary certificate. This will be issued by the official national plant protection organisation in the EU member state, or Switzerland, in line with international obligations. This applies mainly to plants for planting and will ensure that we maintain the biosecurity assurances currently provided by the EU plant passport regime. Regulated plant material from the EU or Switzerland will not be subject to routine physical checks at the border. This recognises that biosecurity risks from such material do not change immediately on exit. However, we will always be vigilant about such imports and, where necessary, take additional measures to stop the introduction of harmful plant pests into the UK.

Secondly, there are changes in how we deal with regulated plant material from non-EU third countries. Such material includes tomatoes from Morocco and cut flowers from Israel and Turkey, which currently come into England via the EU. Businesses wishing to continue bringing in this material via the EU through ro-ro ports will be required to facilitate checks at approved premises inland to make sure that the material meets our plant health entry requirements prior to their release. These new inland checks are necessary to maintain the biosecurity assurances currently provided by checks at the first point of entry into the EU, given that EU member states will no longer be required to carry out these checks on goods in transit for the UK after we leave. Consignments of regulated plant material moving from our ro-ro ports to approved inland premises will continue to be sealed—a point I emphasise. Some 33 businesses have so far applied for their premises to be approved for inland checks. As I stated earlier, the Animal and Plant Health Agency has recruited more than 100 additional inspectors to carry out the approval process and checks at the approved premises. They will deliver their inspections with the same rigour as they apply now.

The direct cost to businesses of these changes to import arrangements are expected to be low. Officials have held discussions with key stakeholders on the development of our approach to this instrument and the changes to import requirements. They continue to engage businesses to support the preparations for day-one changes.

This instrument also creates a UK system of plant passports to replace the EU plant passport regime, which will no longer be operable when we leave. It is essential to provide for a domestic plant passport regime to maintain existing safeguards to protect biosecurity from the trade in regulated plant material in the UK. The costs to and burdens on businesses using plant passports should not change.

The other amendments are as follows. There is to be a new offence in relation to the new import requirements I just outlined. This is necessary to ensure that we can enforce and, if necessary, prosecute serious cases of non-compliance with the new requirement. That will apply to consignments of regulated plant material from non-EU countries that arrive through ro-ro ports via the EU and will not be inspected at the border. There will be a new offence to enforce any failure by businesses or landowners to comply with pest control measures specified in a statutory notice, which will demarcate the areas where there is a pest outbreak. This is necessary to ensure that we can enforce the provisions covered in these instruments whereby Ministers can demarcate an infected area and take action. These regulations apply to England only. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will hold separate equivalent legislation, as they do now.

These instruments will ensure that an operable legal framework is in place for exit day and will facilitate the flow of goods while preserving the current plant health regime’s overall aim of preventing and managing pest and disease threats. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for taking these two statutory instruments together. Although they are huge, they are complementary. I am also grateful to him for his explanation. As he said, it is a matter of making sure that we have an operable legal framework when we leave the EU. I have one or two questions.

I am grateful for the detailed Explanatory Memorandum on the first instrument. Paragraph 2.5 talks about “existing fees”. Will we continue with those fees until at some future time they might be changed if that needs to be done? At the moment it just states that the existing fees will continue.

Paragraph 2.7 talks about the new certificates,

“issued in the country of export in accordance with International Plant Protection Convention obligations”.

I was delighted to see that any imports will not be stopped at the border but will be examined and looked at in great detail at the centres to which they eventually go. I understand that physical checks will not be carried out on anything that has come through existing EU member states, and that that will continue into the future—I hope I am correct and that we get clarification on that—but anything coming in from a third country that does not come through the EU will be dealt with in a totally different way. It is hugely important that we control anything coming into this country. We have seen with great sadness ash and oak trees being lost through infections and diseases. These are really important steps we are taking. Are the premises that will need to be authorised by Defra to provide those inspection facilities all over the UK or based around the London area? It is not clear where they will be based.

We have a new offence in relation to non-compliance with import requirements in this statutory instrument; I welcome the opportunity for us to prosecute serious cases. Do the Government anticipate that there might be set fees for anything coming in that fails to live up to the expected standards, or will they come later?

I turn now to the statutory instrument itself. On page 23, Article 22A(3) states:

“The conditions are that—(a) the packaging in which the relevant material is transported and any vehicle which is used to transport the material is free from soil and plant debris and any relevant tree pest”.

I do not know how one can fully guarantee that, even if the material is wrapped and fully secure, there will not be some leakage or mishap during transition. Has thought been given to that? Then on page 29, in Part D of Schedule 13A, paragraph 11(a)(vii)(cc) refers to,

“controls for the disposal of waste, soil and water, as appropriate”.

The two do not seem to sit terribly well together. Why is there different wording in different areas? It may be that I have missed something, but I am not quite clear and I would be grateful for clarification.

Basically I very much welcome these regulations, because—like other noble Lords who will take part in this debate—I have for many years been very conscious of the risks we run. The more plants and shrubs we import, the greater the risk to our native species. Also, the climate is warming here, and therefore we may well, as we are seeing, be able to grow more vines and things, but as we import additional shrubs and other habitats into this country, the risk is even greater than before. It is just a matter of trying to make sure that the system we are establishing here is strong enough and has enough powers. Hence my questions on the way fees will be dealt with and on what regulations there will be about the charges when people do not live up to the standards we are setting in these instruments. They are hugely important. I would not normally speak at such great length, but I am very aware that while we cannot control certain things, such as wind-borne diseases, we certainly can control physical things coming into our country. I want to make sure we have taken enough precautions in these two statutory instruments.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for so clearly outlining the changes. If we enter a no-deal Brexit scenario, we will lose a fully-functioning system that regulates the very important trade in fruit, vegetables, freshly-cut flowers and timber that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said, is critical to ensuring our continuing biosecurity.

I have three points. First, I struggled to get a sense from the Explanatory Memorandum of what increase in the inspection rates will be necessary as a result of this new scenario in the event of no deal. As the Minister rightly said at the beginning, the majority of plants and fresh fruit will not have any more inspection, but all the plants and produce coming in by virtue of the EU plant passport regime, which are not subject to inspection now, will be subject to inspection in future. I was grateful for the responses that I had from the staff when I asked them that question: they made it clear that we are looking at a 30% increase in the number of inspections necessary in plants, fruit and cut flowers, and a 50% increase in timber. We are not talking about small numbers here. The figures that they gave me are that at the moment we have about 100,000 consignments per year of regulated goods, so a 30% increase on those figures is not going to be small. There will therefore be considerable on-costs to the public purse as the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Forestry Commission will have to undertake those inspections.

The staff helpfully made it clear that at the moment the Forestry Commission has 10 inspectors who undertake inspections but, if we have to go forward with this SI because of a no-deal Brexit, it will have to have increase its inspectors by 50%, which means another five. In real terms that does not sound like a very large number, but it is still of 50% more inspectors, not in the London area, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, rightly highlighted, but geographically spread out, so it will not just be a question of staff costs; it will mean resources to get them out and about in the country. There will be significant on-costs to the public purse as a result of the necessary increase in inspections if we leave the EU.

Secondly, I would like to tease out a bit more on the inspections that are going to take place at authorised premises in order to ensure that there are no backlogs at the RORO points. The Explanatory Memorandum is quite clear that the Government want to avoid that, and I think we all wish that. The Minister just said, if I heard him correctly, that 35 businesses have applied to have authorised premises so that these inspections can take place at their facilities around the country. My understanding from the Explanatory Memorandum is that 900 businesses that are presently engaged in this arena. So 35 business have have applied to have their premises authorised and there are potentially 900 businesses that are already within this arena. Again, I am grateful to the staff because when I asked them how many of those 900 businesses had premises that they thought would be suitable—not everyone is going to have premises that are—they very kindly indicated that they thought between 75 to 100 businesses would have suitable premises. So up to 100 of those 900 businesses are potentially able to get their premises licensed, and only 35, so far, have done so. Will the Minister say a bit more about exactly how we will ensure that we do not get delays at the ports? I applaud the desire to have no backlog at the ports but, at the moment, the figures do not quite seem to stack up.

Thirdly, I add my voice to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, on the biosecurity risk. I accept that the consignments will be in sealed lorries, as the Minister said. That is of course important, but if we are sending off consignments to be inspected at premises all around the country—they will go all over the country; we have lots of garden centres where I am in Surrey and I am sure that other noble Lords will have plenty in their part of the world or know of agricultural wholesale businesses all over the country—while the lorries themselves will be sealed, if they are found to be bearing pests or to be a risk to our biosecurity in some other way, they will have to be destroyed. The facilities for destroying will not be where they are; they might be wherever.

I have the highest regard for what the Minister says and for his sincerity in his commitment to ensuring biosecurity for our country, but even though the staff and the Minister have said that is no additional risk on biosecurity, there are concerns if we send out all these consignments to be inspected at premises around the country. If they are found to be carrying pests or diseases, how are they to be destroyed without spreading further the risks that they have brought in? I know that all of us in this Committee will be concerned about that issue.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on bringing these two instruments before the Committee this afternoon. I am also grateful to him that Fera will be involved in this, since he will recall that Fera is in the Thirsk and Malton constituency. As a slightly amusing story, I remember seeing a beetle at Fera that had been extracted from a wooden bed. It had been quite scary for a honeymoon couple to have heard its constant scratching. Finally, the morning after their nuptials, they called the hotel staff in and found out that the beetle had been imported within the wood that the furniture was made from. It was obviously more company than they had bargained for. I yield to no one in my admiration for the work that FERA does.

I have a couple of questions for my noble friend the Minister. My noble friend Lady Byford referred to plant health and pests in the air. What shocked me and colleagues on the EFRA Committee in the other place in the midst of the ash tree dieback was the fact that we were exporting seeds to be sown in parts of Europe such as, dare I say, Denmark—I am half Danish, so there was obviously some embarrassment—and Poland, which then grew these ash trees. We then reimported them to the UK as saplings with the Chalara fungus; I will not even try to say its name. We were reintroducing the ash tree saplings to this country with that disease. Can my noble friend give the Committee a reassurance that, under the arrangements set out in the statutory instruments today, that will not happen and that we will continue to update the list of species at risk which fall under these regulations on plant health and biosecurity? As the EU continues to amend that list, in the event of no deal will we share the information on our list as we go forward? Will we update our list with any updates to the EU list as well? I am sure that my noble friend will say that that is a matter for negotiation. Will he please make it a priority for our negotiations?

It is obviously of some concern that the threat is not just from dieback to ash trees. Currently, horse chestnuts, pines and other trees are also threatened. Have we learned nothing from elm disease? Kew Gardens and the arboretum at Castle Howard fulfil a national role in making sure that we continue to have seeds which we hope will be free of these diseases. Can my noble friend reassure the Committee that there will not be any threat in future?

In the Prime Minister’s Statement in the other place, there was a lot of talk about the Irish border and the arrangements in Ireland. At the moment, there is no Northern Ireland Assembly. We understand that this issue was raised for the first time two weeks ago by the Minister’s Defra colleague in the other place, particularly in respect of the arrangements for his department. There are going to be no checks at the borders on plant health, but they will be, as it states, in some internal location. Is this entirely sensible when we are dealing with something as fundamental as plant health and biosecurity? If there is an alert for a particular plant disease, should we not reimpose checks at borders for this purpose to make sure that we keep the national biosecurity safe?

In the smaller regulation as I shall call it—the Plant Health (Amendment) (England) (EU Exit) Regulation—paragraph 2.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum sets out obligations,

“for the control and management of plant health risks”,

for the import of plant material from third countries and the movement of such material,

“within the EU single market”.

Given that our position will be that of a third country, can we clarify what the status will be for plant movements between here and the EU?

On page 21 of the SI, Regulation 19 refers to,

“Prevention of the spread of tree pests: England”.

Again, can we ensure that there will not just be plant passports, as it goes on to say, but physical checks, if there is reason to believe that there is a specific threat? At the moment, we know of threats to three particular tree species. We need to be careful and to understand what our status will be in relation to the EU if we crash out and leave with no deal.

I hope that we can give these instruments a fair wind, but both instruments raise a number of issues of potential concern to the biosecurity and plant health of this country.

My Lords, as several noble Lords have pointed out, plant health is a vital issue. I declare an interest as chairman of the Woodland Trust.

Pressure from introduced diseases and pests is serious and growing. Already there has been reference to the publicity surrounding ash dieback, which could kill off 80% of our ash trees and change the nature of our countryside and hedgerows. I am sure that noble Lords—particularly those of my age—will recall the devastation from Dutch elm disease. “You haven’t seen anything yet”, because poised and waiting to come over are killers such as xylella fastidiosa, to which the Minister referred. This is a Darth Vader of plant disease. It could infect a whole range of species of plant and trees. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, talked about three species that are under threat. In reality, it is pretty well true to say that every native tree species is at risk of pest or disease. So plant health needs to be taken very seriously. I thank the Minister for his explanation of these two regulations and for the briefing meeting he set up with himself and senior Defra officials.

The regulations are indeed intended to replicate the current arrangements in Europe, but they contain some differences and illustrate some serious issues. First, as has already been noted, they move the line of defence against the risk of the importation of disease from the port to the importer’s premises in the case of regulated material from third countries. The new process means that the premises of these importers of regulated plants and trees will have to have their process authorised and provide specific inspection facilities, which will then be subjected to a yearly audit. As the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, said, Defra has estimated that between 80 and 100 premises may want to be authorised, but authorisations opened before Christmas and only 33 have gone through the process so far. There is a way to go in achieving readiness. Can the Minister tell us what his department is doing to ensure that all those who need to be designated will be designated in time, whenever “in time” might mean?

I must admit that I was concerned that, in the interests of not gumming up the ro-ro ports and creating friction in the trade process, we would no longer stop and check these materials at ports. I was assured by the Defra chief plant health officer that the plants and trees concerned would be transported in bonded conditions so that the disease could not be spread in transit before they had been checked. Can the Minister assure us that such bonding or sealing provisions, as he called them, will work so that there is no risk of trailing pestilence across the country in the interest of simply avoiding embarrassing queues at the post-Brexit ports?

Once the plants and materials are held in authorised premises, they will need to be inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Agency before they can be moved and distributed. As has already been noted, that will require more staff, including additional plant health inspectors. Support staff will also be needed to manage the uplift in the number of phytosanitary certificates required to ensure that exports from the UK to the EU can be handled. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, referred to that. Defra kindly provided us with figures showing that an additional 117 plant health inspectors and support staff, and an additional five Forestry Commission inspectors, will be recruited. This is a virtual doubling of the workforce. Can the Minister tell us the estimated cost of this new regime? It sounds expensive. Simply doing some sums on the back of a fag packet indicated that the staff alone could cost upwards of £3 million. The public are wholly unaware of these sorts of costs when making their minds up about the value, or otherwise, of Brexit and its variants—so much for the Brexit dividend.

Of course, we are only one country, even if we are four nations. Much depends on effective arrangements being in place—particularly in Scotland, which will subject to separate legislation. Can the Minister tell us whether that legislation has been passed in Scotland and, if not, when it will be passed?

The Minister referred to a new criminal offence being created to provide an enforcement mechanism in the event of failure to comply with a notice issued in respect of a demarcated area. Your Lordships will remember that the House expressed concern about the creation of criminal offences by statutory instruments during consideration of the then EU withdrawal Bill. While this new criminal offence does not count as a relevant criminal offence under the Act, can the Minister confirm the maximum penalty for the offence?

Of course, the new regime deals only with legitimate trade, although the Minister is of the view that it will provide more information for traceability should an outbreak take place. The Minister assures me that the Animal and Plant Health Agency is hot on the tracks of any illegal imports, and I assure the Minister that the agency is regularly under-cover as a mystery shopper at car boot sales in car parks.

These SIs basically recreate a slightly less satisfactory UK regime to replace the existing EU regime for plant health. At heart, this is a lipstick-on-a-pig situation—you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. The scale and threat of plant and tree disease is increasing. In general terms, the Government’s policy for all but regulated materials is of surveillance to spot infestations early once introduced to this country and contain them with vigour. This does not keep out pests and diseases and is insufficiently robust to tackle the current and future threat. Brexit has few merits in my book, but one of them would come into play in this instance: as part of reclaiming our borders, we would have a chance to do a New Zealand or an Australia and adopt a policy of no entry for any plants and trees unless they are demonstrably disease and pest free. If that were in conjunction with a major push for plants to be UK sourced and grown, to reduce the need for imports and to give a valuable boost to the UK nursery trade, that would genuinely be in the spirit of Brexit—I never thought that I would use those words.

I look forward to discussions with the Minister on how we can improve the plant health regime in the context of the forthcoming biosecurity strategy.

My Lords, I thank all noble Baronesses who have contributed to this debate. I suspect that we are united in every particular of the essentials. I stress again that as the Minister with biosecurity in his remit, I could not place a higher importance on keeping our country safe from pests, disease and invasive non-native species, all of which cause immense damage to our natural ecosystems.

As a farmer in the Vale of Aylesbury I was very scarred myself, as a boy, by the loss of all the elm trees on the farm. Now, having planted ash trees over the years and seeing them depleted, no one could be unhappier about that situation. However, in 2012, when it materialised that all sorts of extraordinary things were happening, whereby ash seeds—I think it was even small saplings as well—were going to other parts of the EU to come back and bring Chalara with them, that precipitated a change in Defra and an understanding that, while animal health had rightly been given a very considerable priority, plant health needed to buck up and become as rigorous and as sharp. I could mention many names, but the appointment of the chief plant health officer, Professor Nicola Spence, was one repercussion of an understanding that we needed to do a lot better.

On the issue of bonding and sealed, or whatever word may be used, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that I was absolutely clear in the early stages of this situation that I too wanted reassurances. I am well aware that pests may arrive at a port and we may find them going all around the country because we have done something utterly stupid. I was assured, and I will go into further detail on the assessments, about why this was a sound and sensible thing for us to do.

I will go through the points in no particular order. My noble friend Lady Byford asked about existing fees and any changes. Existing fees will apply to these import inspections at inland premises, so we will follow the existing fee arrangements.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, asked about the estimated number of consignments and inspections. I want to be clear that by inspection we would mean physical inspection of a consignment of plant material, rather than simply checks of the documents associated with it. In a no-deal scenario the majority of plants and plant products imported from the EU, including fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, will continue to enter the UK freely without physical inspections, as currently. Those goods managed under the EU plant passport regime, such as certain species for planting and shrubs, will require an internationally recognised phytosanitary certificate. There will be no physical inspection of the goods at the border, although our risk-based inland surveillance system will continue. A documentary and identity check will take place remotely, without requiring that goods are stopped either at the border or inland awaiting checks. The importer will be required to pre-notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency about details of a consignment of regulated plant material. At this stage we are, in a sense, keeping what we have for certain regulated plants from within the EU—in other words, the phytosanitary certificate.

The important area—if the Committee does not mind my setting this out, because it is terribly important to establish the sequence—is that material originating in third countries that enters the UK via the EU without being checked in the EU will require a physical inspection in the UK, in the same way as we currently physically inspect material coming directly from third countries. So whether or not the material enters the UK at the ro-ro ports, we will inspect the goods at trade premises inland that have been authorised in line with biosecurity requirements. At this stage we do not have data on the current number of plants and plant products entering the UK from third countries via the EU which will require an inspection, but we estimate that there will be around 14,500 consignments per year.

My noble friend Lady Byford asked about the location of inland premises. They are located across the United Kingdom. We do not have to hand the exact locations of the 33 premises currently being organised but I can provide that information in due course. I should say, and this issue arose in another connection, that a lot of the current facilities are around Heathrow because obviously a lot of the plants from third countries come in there. I know that there have previously been considerations about the fact that it is London-centric; that is because often the bulk of plant material from third countries has come in that way. I have been to the excellent inspection unit alongside Heathrow, where so much of the biosecurity protection takes place with imports directly from third countries.

My noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked about the costs. It is the Government’s policy to charge fees for many publicly-provided goods and services. The standard approach is to set fees to recover the full cost of service delivery. This relieves the general taxpayer of the costs so that they are properly borne by users who benefit from the service. Charging for plant health services is consistent with the principle that businesses using these services should bear the cost. The costs incurred in any 12-month period are recovered by fees levied in the following 12 months. For example, fees for 2019-20 will be based on the costs incurred in providing services for the period from April 2018 to March 2019.

My noble friend Lady Byford and, I think, the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, raised transporting, moving inland and the biosecurity risk. As I have said, experts both from the APHA and within Defra have made it clear that in their assessment, under the containerised, sealed and bonded arrangements, these materials will be secure until they are inspected.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, asked about the volume of the imports from the EU that would be subject to the new process. We estimate that around 0.75 million tonnes of regulated plant products from the EU, out of around 7 million tonnes of total annual imports, will require a phytosanitary certificate. On the question that she also raised on concerns about blockages at points of entry, we are seeking to do this because the paramount concern is that we keep the country biosecure. Clearly, though, where inland premises have been inspected and are both suitable to the inspectors and secure, we have been advised that there is no biosecurity risk from that.

I want to respond to another point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. She asked about the dangers of spreading pests. It is clear that we must ensure that that does not happen; that is the whole point of our carrying on with the EU system of requiring pre-notification with phytosanitary certificates for certain EU plant products. That is an important pre-notification system to enable APHA to be aware of arrivals. Moreover, part of the regime is that random checks are made of plant materials. We place the greatest importance on this area.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about the risks. She talked about ash dieback; the outbreak has precipitated an enormous amount of research—here I am moving away slightly from the statutory instrument before us. Research now being undertaken into tree health is remarkable for both its public and private funding, through universities. The John Innes Centre has undertaken research into the genome of the ash tree which gives us hope that perhaps 15% to 20% of the trees may have some tolerance. We can ensure the future of the ash tree from them. This is an important area and we will work with evidence to develop a risk-based, proportionate approach to plant health measures.

In the past we have introduced precautionary national measures to protect the UK against threats. For example, the UK produced stronger national legislation against xylella in response to the situation elsewhere in the EU. We have also introduced national legislation to protect against oak processionary moth. In fact, during my early months in this post I am afraid that I made myself unpopular with our very nice Spanish friends when dealing with the Epitrix potato pest by requiring further washing because we were concerned about the arrival of unwashed new potatoes at certain times. Moreover, of course we will work with the devolved Administrations to ensure there is protection across the United Kingdom.

I turn to the question of Northern Ireland. As we have discussed in a number of debates, the island of Ireland is an epidemiological entity for obvious reasons. In fact, when we looked at aquaculture, we found that there are fewer fish pests in the island of Ireland than there are in Great Britain. It is terribly important that the all-Ireland concept is seen in that context because pests and diseases are not respecters of borders. It is intended that a similar SI will be made for Northern Ireland. The specific legislation will align with our own legislation to ensure a consistent approach to plant health. It will be laid before day one.

Can my noble friend explain how we will keep that legislation in line with what happens in the south?

As I said to my noble friend, the whole point in raising the single entity is that is why it is so important that there is close co-operation. If my noble friend had seen our earlier consideration of Northern Ireland matters, he would have heard about the very strong relationship between bodies in the north and the south on almost the whole of the natural ecosystem area. That is tremendously important.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about changes to the list of regulated pests. A plant health risk register is publicly available and I am afraid to say that currently we have 1,000 pests recorded on it. That somewhat bears out what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. I have regular meetings with Grown in Britain, and which side of the argument on the European Union one might be on is, frankly, irrelevant. We need to be more biosecure within the United Kingdom. We all need to be more biosecure around the world because our laxity in these matters has already caused enormous problems around the world and we need to attend to it.

Professor Nicola Spence and I have regular meetings: sometimes gloomy ones about the arrival of, for example, the spruce beetle in a wood in Kent. We think it probably travelled across our waters. All that has immense implications when we go to Scotland, where spruce is really important. We are working extremely hard on measures to contain the spruce beetle; it is too early for me to say that they have been a success, but initial findings from our work are bearing fruit. We must keep all these matters under regular and constant review. I assure the Committee that I place the utmost importance on that.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh mentioned import inspections and inland monitoring. We already undertake systematic inspections of regulated goods at ports and airports. This will not change. In future, we will carry out our own checks of regulated material being imported from such countries via the EU. I have mentioned that the risk assessment on the change to inland was done by our technical experts in APHA and Defra, who consider that it does not pose a change of risk. That is why we have the inspectors; they need to be in a position to see what is happening.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned the additional costs. The cost of the additional plant health inspectors required in a no-deal scenario to facilitate inland checks is covered in the additional £7.4 million that the Animal and Plant Health Agency has been allocated for 2018-19. It is also to support Defra’s wide-ranging and ambitious portfolio of preparations for exit. I work with the Animal and Plant Health Agency and it has strong expertise.

I thank my noble friend for clarifying the extra money that has been allocated. Will that money be clawed back from importers and people who are buying the products, or will the Government put the money up and make no attempt to get recompense? I thought from the conversations we had earlier that there would be a charge.

The fees are for the costs of inspection or whatever. The additional costs for people will partly be borne by the Exchequer. I think I had better have complete clarification on that. As far as I am concerned, the fees cover the cost of inspections and we will have to upscale them. It might be helpful if that £7.4 million is allocated in a way that my noble friend and other noble Lords can appreciate, so that we get it right and I get it on the record right.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Parminter, mentioned the 33 premises. There are obviously other businesses. Officials are engaging with export businesses and encouraging applications. We look forward to being helpful because it is important that these premises are inspected, secure and fit for purpose. Then we can help to ensure that these products come to the inland premises as swiftly as possible.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked about future plans. The policies in regulations are risk-based and proportionate, and will apply temporarily from day one until we develop our future plant health regime. This will include consideration of the extent to which we implement aspects of revived arrangements to be introduced in the EU from December 2019 through its new regulations on plant health and official controls, given their significant influence in shaping these new arrangements. Clearly what we in this country want to do is to have the highest possible standards of biosecurity. We will be looking at the advantage of available technologies to facilitate trade that is as frictionless as possible, but the paramount importance is to have high standards of biosecurity. Defra and the Food Standards Agency are working closely together to develop proposals for this and plan to consult on them this year.

The noble Baroness asked about Scotland. By chance, I met Mairi Gougeon, the Scottish Biosecurity Minister, along with Lesley Griffiths from Wales only about three hours ago as they were in for other meetings at Defra. I requested that the three of us meet, perhaps when this particular hiatus is over, so that we can work positively together. For Scotland, the Plant Health (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2019 were laid in draft on 13 March and were debated and passed scrutiny unchallenged on 14 March, while similar regulations for Wales were laid in draft on 19 February.

I am going to have a close look at Hansard regarding other points. My noble friend Lady Byford mentioned climate change. Obviously, this is an area where we all need to work collaboratively across the world. Because of climate change, plant diseases and pests have, in my view, become much more alarming. The issue of physical and windborne is absolutely the case. I am afraid that we would have got Chalara even if we had not done the unwise things that we did because, as my noble friend Lord Deben and others will know, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and such eastern counties are suffering because of it being airborne. That leads to a much wider issue: whatever our arrangements with our friends in the EU 27, this is an area where we all have to collaborate. I am afraid the challenge that I would put back to Europe in this area is that a lot of things are coming here because when they arrived in Europe, there has not been zero tolerance. I mention the oak processionary moth and the Asian hornet as examples of where arrivals in Europe have not been dealt with, so we are having to seek to deal with them here. We do not have enough sea to match the ambition of New Zealand or Australia; it is only 22 miles wide. We all need to do very much more.

On the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the maximum penalty, I might not have a note from the Box but I think the fine is limitless. All I can say is that if someone transgresses, I hope the fine is substantial because the disasters that can befall our country due to these pests and diseases is very grave. I will study Hansard. I will write if there are embellishments or further details that I can supply.

Motion agreed.