Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, I hope it will be helpful to your Lordships if I speak to both instruments, given that they are closely interrelated. Protecting biosecurity is of paramount importance, and the operability amendments in these instruments provide a strong basis for our future regime, including bringing the EU within the scope of our controls on third-country imports. While the overall policy does not change, there will inevitably be some adjustment for those businesses involved in importing plants from the EU. The devolved Administrations have given their consent to introduce these regulations on a GB basis.
The first instrument implements a new UK plant passport in place of the current EU plant passport. The UK plant passport will be used for movements of regulated plant material within GB and provides assurance that relevant phytosanitary regulations have been met. From the end of the transition period, GB will no longer use the EU protected zone arrangements, and will instead move to using pest-free areas and internationally recognised classification. GB will designate two pest-free areas: one for oak processionary moth, a pest which is concentrated around London while being absent from the rest of the country, and one for bark beetles, which are absent from an area in the west of Scotland. Other protected zones will not need to be carried forward to pest-free areas as the whole of GB is free of these pests, meaning that existing protections will be retained but specific geographic designations are unnecessary.
The transition provisions in this instrument require high-risk items from the EU—those assessed as presenting a significant risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases—to be subject to import checks and to be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates from 1 January 2021. This represents only a limited range of the plant material imported from the EU, but they are our immediate priority because they are linked to known threats or, in some cases, previous interceptions. These systematic checks will provide additional assurance about the status of these goods compared to what is currently achievable through targeted checks of goods arriving in GB from the EU. Import requirements for lower-risk plant material will be phased in from April, with physical checks of these goods from July. Import checks will be conducted on a risk basis, with the highest risk goods, such as hosts of Xylella, receiving the most intensive scrutiny. Products such as houseplants and bulbs for retail sale, for example, represent a lower threat, so the frequency of import checks will be less.
This instrument also makes operability amendments to correct references to EU legislation, remove redundant EU obligations and revoke previously laid EU exit legislation that is now redundant. It also makes consequential amendments to fees legislation, including amendments to allow charging for services related to exports to the EU.
The second instrument sets out four categories of regulated plant pests for Great Britain based on international standards. Each list provides for different situations. “Quarantine pests” are those where we have a comprehensive risk assessment to support permanent import requirements to maintain the whole country as free of those pests. Secondly, “provisional GB quarantine pests” provides such protection on a precautionary basis while the necessary evidence is developed and assessed. Thirdly, “pest-free areas” protects against the introduction of harmful pests into new areas. Lastly, while regulated, “non-quarantine pests” allows ongoing protection to prevent the further spread of pests via planting material.
The instrument also sets out measures in relation to the introduction of plants, plant products and other objects into GB, and the movement of plants, plant products and other objects within GB to reduce the risks in connection with those pests to an acceptable level. I would like to cover a few examples which I hope will be helpful to your Lordships. The GB quarantine pest list has been amended to focus on pests which pose a risk to Great Britain. This has included the deregulation of pests which pose a risk only to citrus, rice and other tropical fruits which are not grown in GB. The regulation of all non-European fruit flies has been removed, and requirements will now focus only on fruit flies which pose a risk to crops important to GB—for example, tomatoes, pepper and cucumbers. These deregulations will increase efficiency for the trade and movement of goods through the border by removing checks on produce which does not pose a risk to GB, also freeing up time of our official inspectors to focus on the more significant risks.
Amendments have also resulted in some strengthening of biosecurity protection against certain pests. There have been additions to the GB quarantine pest list, including Phomopsis canker, which causes dieback of blueberries, and apple proliferation phytoplasma, which can affect fruit quality and yield as well as tree vigour. These are present in the EU and are treated as regulated non-quarantine pests, which limits the level of control possible. The new category of provisional GB quarantine pests includes the two-lined chestnut borer, a pest of oak and chestnut in North America which has recently spread to Turkey, and the oak longhorn beetle, which is causing damage to oaks in China.
I think we would all agree that protecting biosecurity is not only of supreme interest to this Government but of supreme importance to our environment, the country and particularly—if I may say so—the horticultural sector and the businesses which we want to prosper, and which frankly give so much pleasure to so many people. I remind your Lordships that there are reputedly 3 million more gardeners this year because of the current health crisis; we want that to continue.
What we have brought forward here in these instruments is that we wish to facilitate import and movement of plant material, but I hope that your Lordships will agree that we need to do it on a risk-basis manner and in a biosecure manner. For these reasons, I recommend these instruments and I beg to move.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend the Minister. Some eight years ago I was in his place. I thought I was busy, but none of us could have foreseen the workload that Defra has recently had to carry in this period of dramatic change. He knows of my interests, which are that of bulb growers and packers in my family business. We are very much affected in the import and export aspects of these new procedures. My son Adam—who now runs our bulb business—is a former president of the Horticultural Trades Association, and with it recognises the need to adapt our working methods to maintain, and indeed enhance, biosecurity following our departure from the European Union.
The Horticultural Trades Association realises that these regulations have to be in place by 1 January 2021—deal or no deal. I expect that my noble friend Lady Fookes will provide the Grand Committee an update from the HTA and its chairman, James Barnes. She and I were able to share in a briefing for the HTA by my noble friend the Minister and his senior team at Defra. It made clear the need for a continuing partnership. Good communication is needed if the industry is to deliver on these regulations. The Government must show a willingness to listen and act to avoid unnecessary burdens on business.
The Minister is right to take a risk-based approach. The development of a single-access customs and reporting computer program will be key. There are particular problems with the nurseries and packers which trade with Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. At present, the Dutch can deliver by crossing GB without any extra paperwork or inspections. Let us hope this can be resolved. With a sizeable business on the island of Ireland, I am keen to see progress so as to avoid repeat inspections, documentation and delay.
As president of the Anglo-Netherlands Society, I am keen to see Defra, in conjunction with the FCDO, have a dialogue with key suppliers such as the Dutch. I know from what the newly installed ambassador, Karel van Oosterom, has said that the Dutch embassy has greatly added to its staff in London. We need to establish and maintain contact and dialogue, here and in Holland, so that we can make use of this important link, now that we are no longer a member of European institutions.
I support these regulations and hope we can make a success of them.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to be able to participate remotely and to follow my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach. He is much more concerned with plant health. I declare an interest as somebody who owns a bit of forestry and a rural property.
It has proved extremely difficult to get hold of this statutory instrument. I had to be coached through a process involving 10 moves in order to find the full text. It is an enormous piece of work. No doubt the department has gone through everything with a fine-toothed comb. I was interested that the regulations draw up a contingency plan for pests and diseases before January 2023. My noble friend the Minister has just told us that they are accepting the details in the EU directive but leaving out the diseases that are not common to this country. Is what is left really adequate? Do the Government propose adding any new diseases to the list? When will they address these matters?
My Lords, it is somewhat intimidating to follow three noble Lords who have infinitely more knowledge and experience in this area. I will attempt to probe the Minister on this entirely necessary but—as the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, pointed out—highly complex and lengthy legislation.
In his response, will the Minister say more about the phasing of these regulations? He mentioned April for the less high-risk species and then a second date of July next year. Are the Government committed to a four-month phasing-in period? Will the system be fully operational by July, with all the new checks in place, or is July a less firm date, given its complexity?
In relation to the overall regulations, can the Minister say more about the help that his department is giving to the beleaguered industry? It is seeking to understand how it is supposed to fulfil its obligations on a number of wider import and export issues after Brexit. There is a great amount of detail involved. How are the Government going to help small businesses trying to make their way in this industry through this challenging period? They have no spare capacity beyond making and getting their products to market.
Can the Minister say more about the approach to Xylella fastidiosa? I hope he will forgive me if this is spelled out within the regulations in a way that I do not immediately comprehend. Many people will be interested in whether 1 January marks the divergence between the UK and the EU on this threat which the Minister was blocked from implementing earlier this year.
The Minister showed great forbearance last week when I attempted to ask a number of questions relating to this issue in the debate on the invasive species regulations. Now we are in the right regulatory setting, can he clarify the checks system which is being phased in from January and April through to July? Are the Government implementing routine checks on plants and plant material which were previously prohibited in the single market, or do these routine checks not fit with the risk-based approach which they are following?
Will the Minister allow a final question about the huge impact of the new system from 1 January which goes wider than these specific regulations? Will there be a fast-track, green lane for fruit and veg producers to prevent potentially hundreds of thousands of tonnes rotting in the queues, which we anticipate could happen from next month?
My Lords, first, I declare my interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group. Of course, I welcome warmly in principle any system which will better protect our country from imported plant diseases. We have all seen enough of Dutch elm disease, ash dieback and sundry other horrible pests and diseases to know that we want to prevent the import of more, notably Xylella, which affects so many garden plants. Nevertheless, the horticultural industry is worried about the adjustments that it will have to make from 1 January. My noble friend the Minister referred to “some” adjustments; I think that the trade would say that they are tremendously important and worrying adjustments.
The regulations are long, complex and, to me, barely comprehensible. It is important that those who will have to run with these regulations have full explanations in everyday language. I am told that these are not yet forthcoming. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister can say whether this is correct, because it is important that all traders, nurseries and so forth have access to them.
My noble friend Lord Taylor mentioned discussions with the Horticultural Trades Association, in which we were both engaged. Perhaps I may put to the Minister some of the worries that it has expressed, but I must make it clear that it, as much as anybody else, wants to prevent pests and diseases coming into this country and is anxious to work with the Government after 1 January as well as before it. It is concerned that border controls to check plant health will not yet be in place, meaning that checks will be made at plant destinations. According to the trades association, that means anything from 1,000 to possibly 2,000, which will be a considerable worry, especially for small nurseries or centres that sell plants. They will need to know whether and when an inspector is going to come and, in the meantime, they will not be free to sell the plants. The association is also worried as to whether there will be differences in the categorisation of plants—high-risk plants and others. I think that my noble friend the Minister has made it clear that the regime will not apply equally; inspectors will look to check high-risk plants, which is of some consolation.
Traders are also worried about the need to switch to, from their point of view, a brand new computer system in July. I believe that it is a system that already works for other organisations, but it would be brand new to the horticultural industry. If it is anything like my experience with computer systems, it is not a happy thing to which to look forward. I hope that my noble friend can explain a little more clearly how this will work, to make it easier for the industry as a whole.
My noble friend Lord Taylor has already explained the concerns in relation to Northern Ireland, so I shall not repeat them, but it is important to reassure the horticultural trades in their various forms that the department is understanding of their problems. Above all, I ask the Minister that he and his officials be prepared to work closely with the Horticultural Trades Association as the main representative of the industry to make certain that, as this thing rolls out and problems appear—some of which we may have discussed already and others that may come forward later—they are fully in touch and will adjust as the need arises. The concerns expressed hitherto reflect intense worry on the part of the various nurseries and garden centres. As I have said, they want a new system, but they do not want to be ruined by its implementation.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his clear explanation of the regulations and commend the Government on aiming to ensure effective phytosanitary controls to protect biosecurity. I welcome the strengthening of some controls, such as on apple proliferation phytoplasma and oak longhorn beetles. However, I share some of the concerns expressed by my noble friends Lord Taylor and Lady Fookes regarding the communication of these vast changes for the industry—I declare my interest as a keen gardener—which will require significant adjustment. On the changes particularly for Northern Ireland, but for the whole United Kingdom, clarification is required. As my noble friend Lady Fookes said, the industry fully supports the aims of the regulations and the Government’s policy to control pests and so on, but it wants to know clearly what it needs to do in a new regime.
Many of the issues have been relayed to me by Friends of the Earth, which has a number of concerns on which I ask my noble friend the Minister to comment. For example, Regulation 28(24)(c) changes the requirement in article 25(4) of regulation 2016/2031 such that the UK will establish priority pest plans for all limited pests with a deadline of 1 January 2023. That is in line with the previous deadline, but there are concerns that the omissions may cause some delay. Can my noble friend outline progress thus far on developing priority pest plans for the listed pests? Will he confirm that any future changes to the current list of priority pests will be subject to the same risk assessment processes as currently used by the EU?
On Regulation 30(7), why is it considered necessary to amend article 44(2) of regulation 2016/2031 to delete the reference to the European Commission’s ability to investigate third countries to see whether equivalence is properly achieved? Can my noble friend allay the fears of reduced democratic oversight expressed by Friends of the Earth and explain why the EU examination procedure for scrutiny and amendment of regulations is not fully replicated? I recognise and respect that we want and need our own regulations and our own system, but if my noble friend is able to address some of the concerns of Friends of the Earth, it will help ensure smoother passage and reassure the industry where currently there are significant concerns.
On scrutiny of secondary legislation with respect to environmental security or protection of plant, animal or human health and safety, there are concerns that these will be weakened by the changes. I am sure that my noble friend would not wish that, but it might be helpful to have it on record that it is the case. I am sure that colleagues in the Committee would also support those aims.
My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, which is obviously very concerned about biosecurity. I commend the Minister for his work on biosecurity. I know he champions it in government, which is very much to be recognised. I was also going to congratulate the officials who put all this together, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes. If I suffer from insomnia later this week I shall reach for it next to my bed, I assure you.
This is a really serious subject because we know that lapses in biosecurity can cost us a huge amount of money. On the animal side, we still think back to foot and mouth, which cost some £8 billion or £9 billion. In the case of plants, lapses can have a major impact on biodiversity. This is a really important area.
I will bring up a few points with the Minister. First, “passport” sounds impressive, but is nothing at all like the passport we have at the moment while we are part of the single market, which allows us to transfer products within 28 nation states with security. This will allow plant materials to go between the devolved nations, but that is about it.
I will follow up on the important point that the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, raised about IT systems. I would like to understand whether those systems are ready, whether they have been trialled and whether we are certain that they will work. I am not sure whether this is supposed to happen on 1 January or in July, but perhaps the Minister could reassure us on that.
Within the European Union we have the TRACES system, which I expect the Prime Minister might describe as world beating. It is a very serious system. I wonder whether there are plans to have some connection with TRACES in future—as long as negotiations are successful in the coming weeks, as we all hope they will be. There is real information and data in that system that would be of use to us, and I am sure that our data would still be of use to the EU for the point of increasing both sides’ biosecurity.
One of the most important areas is preventing these diseases getting to the border in the first place. Under the present system, the Commission has a number of officials worldwide who check out producers and growers before products are shipped or processed. We will no longer have access to those individuals and their recommendations, checking and audit. I would be interested to understand from the Minister where we are on replacing that capability. In some ways, preventing these risks at source is even more fundamental than stopping them at the border.
I understand the concept of risk-based enforcement and I welcome it in all sorts of ways. It is a most efficient way to do it, but I warn the Minister that I have too often seen “risk-based” being a euphemism for “budget cut”. I would like reassurance on where we are on personnel at the border, let alone out there in the rest of the world, to make sure that this system works.
Lastly, I ask the Minister to reassure us that we will not have an open gate for six months, where one gets the impression that anything goes. Although I understand entirely that most products come through the European Union, so it will be no riskier on 1 January then it will be on 31 December, I am aware that there tends to be a regulatory arbitrage among people who want to move on substandard product. I wonder whether less scrupulous people in this trade outside our national frontiers might try to use this open door policy to find a way to sell substandard product. That would be a risk.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful introduction and for arranging a very useful briefing in advance of this debate. We know that he takes plant biosecurity extremely seriously and I pay tribute to his work on that issue. It is vital that we have effective biosecurity and phytosanitary controls in place when we end the transition on 31 December, so we do not object to the principles set out in these two SIs but, like other noble Lords, I have a few questions of clarification that it would be helpful for him to address.
First, paragraph 2.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum on the first SI talks about creating “operability amendments” through
“a ‘single market’ covering GB and the Crown Dependencies”,
but it then goes on to say that:
“Internal controls will also continue to apply to movement of goods”
within that GB single market. I am interested to know what these internal controls will consist of. Do they include, for example, checks on goods moving between England and Scotland? Paragraph 2.4 says that:
“Separate but parallel domestic legislation applies in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.”
Can I double check that those separate bits of legislation are exactly the same as the SI before us? There would otherwise be a challenge to businesses operating in that system.
Will the new plant passport reference codes referred to in paragraph 12.5 be the same throughout GB, whether the commodity originates in England, Wales or Scotland? Will all those plant passport numbers be compatible? Clearly there will be business implications for businesses moving plants passported within GB, so why has there not been an impact assessment of the regulations, given the inevitable business impact?
Also, in response to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Defra says:
“Between January 2021 and July 2021, physical inspections … will take place at the point of destination for imports from the EU.”
I wanted more information on this, although the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, has I think already given me part of the answer. I wanted to know what “point of destination” really meant. My question was whether it referred to ports and airports or whether it had a wider meaning. I understand from her that it does indeed have that wider meaning and that it refers to the nurseries and so on where the plants are ultimately destined. If that is the case, it seems that there is a biosecurity issue about those plants travelling to that point of destination before they are checked. How will the inspection process account for that?
Following on in terms of inspections, the whole emphasis of this new package is that it will be done on a risk basis, but will there also be some scope for routine or random inspections? As I think that the noble Lords, Lord Walney and Lord Teverson, said, the system we set up will be known globally to all and sundry. If we are not careful we will be rather open to unscrupulous people if we operate a checking system for only high-risk products. We need to ensure that the system we introduce is robust and has some element of random checking within it. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that.
Paragraph 7.4 refers to separate legislative arrangements needed for Northern Ireland to align with the EU regulations for GB goods entering Northern Ireland. What are those separate legislative arrangements? Is it intended that we will debate them before the new year?
I will follow up on the example from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who said that Dutch bulbs could pass through GB without the need for paperwork, presumably because it is, in effect, EU to EU. Again, I did not know this, so I have learned something. Would this apply even if the plants travelling were in a higher category of risk, rather than being just Dutch bulbs?
The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, referred to the Friends of the Earth submission—the issue about investigations taking place in third countries to determine whether or not equivalence with UK standards is being properly achieved. I echo that; it was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. Regulation 30(7) removes that reference. Will investigations still take place in third countries? Where is that wording now that that reference, which seems to make perfect sense, has been taken out?
The second SI lists the animal and plant pests subject to quarantine. The Minister has made it clear to us that the list before us is a newly compiled list specific to GB. How does that compare with the EU list, given that EU countries are our nearest neighbours and therefore most likely to transfer existing or new pest threats? If the EU updates its list when it becomes aware of new risks, what will be the system for letting us know so that we can utilise its intelligence and update our risk-based plant controls to correspond? If there is an EU update, how does that impact on our list? How will our list be updated and how will we notify people if the list becomes a moveable feast and is constantly updated, as in many ways it makes sense to do?
Finally, Friends of the Earth says that a specific reference to an “examination procedure” for adopting amendments to regulations has been changed to applying a risk assessment. This seems a watering-down of the current arrangements and I would be grateful if the Minister could address that in his response.
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords for this really very absorbing debate. I say categorically to all noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lady Altmann, that there is absolutely no weakening of our resolve on biosecurity—quite the reverse. In fact, in other quarters I may be accused of raising the bar and that is exactly what we are seeking to do in terms of immediate—from 1 January—requirements for high-risk plants coming in from the EU, precisely because we are concerned that there is a biosecurity risk. I emphasise that.
I say also to all noble Lords, but particularly my noble friends Lady Fookes and Lord Taylor of Holbeach and the noble Lord, Lord Walney, that it is absolutely imperative that we work in partnership with businesses engaged in this matter. I know that that is what all the officials I have been working with want to do, and everything that we are doing is on a risk basis, based on sound science, as to what is affecting this country. I should also say that given the time allocated and the number of questions, there may be some questions that I would like to respond to in rather more detail, but we have listened to the concerns of industry to ensure that the new requirements are as practical, proportionate and risk-based as they possibly can be.
Import controls on EU-regulated goods will be phased in over six months from 1 January. Regulated goods will not be held at the border for import checks during this initial period but will instead be inspected on a risk-targeted basis at places of destination. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who made the legitimate point about whether there is a gap, that, in fact, we are ensuring that there is no gap with regard to high-risk goods that are coming here at the moment. We are using the opportunity from day one of ensuring that high-risk goods, where we have already had interceptions, will be inspected and checked. As I said, it is designed on the basis of risk. Our focus is on those goods from the EU which have been deemed to represent a significant plant health threat.
I say to my noble friends Lady Fookes and Lady Altmann that Defra has been engaged in numerous trade events and has distributed extensive guidance directly to around 2,200 businesses by email. All known trade associations have been involved in Defra events and have been provided with detailed guidance to circulate to their members. The APHA Defra helplines are actively responding to queries to support business readiness. The devolved Administrations have been involved in similar processes and activities to ensure business preparedness. This is a continuing matter, pre 1 January and post 1 January.
The noble Lord, Lord Walney, asked about what we are doing in the phasing. The purpose is to work with businesses so that we engage on the high-risk plants and plant products first, and from April 2021 all regulated goods will be pre-notified and accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. We will be extending physical import checks to other regulated goods from July 2021. We will be continuing our risk-based programme of inland surveillance as a further check that requirements are being met.
I say also to the noble Lord that we are working closely with other departments and agencies to ensure that there is a good join-up. We have also listened to the concerns of industry to ensure that new requirements are practical and appropriate, and are working to ensure that there are not blockages of fresh produce.
In response to my noble friend Lady Fookes, I say that have been in regular engagement with industry. More particularly, day in, day out, there has been work between officials and the Horticultural Trades Association and others. Most recently, we have undertaken a series of feasibility sessions with more than 300 participants, and equivalent export sessions. Alongside these feasibility sessions, Defra is hosting a series of webinars, open to all, on the new plant health requirements.
Northern Ireland, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, will maintain alignment with EU regulations. These instruments focus on Great Britain’s biosecurity and the pests that threaten it. Northern Ireland will retain its own separate legislative arrangements in relation to the continued application of the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary rules. A further instrument is under development to set out the arrangements for qualifying Northern Ireland goods which are regulated plants or plant products and can move from Northern Ireland to and within Great Britain under the Government’s unfettered access arrangements. We expect to lay this instrument before the end of the year.
My noble friend the Duke of Montrose and the noble Lord, Lord Walney, referred to the length of these SIs. I have considerable sympathy: combined they are 343 pages. They are simply amending the retained EU legislation to reflect risks to Great Britain so that measures against the introduction or spread of harmful organisms continue to remain effective and operable following the end of the transition period.
My noble friends the Duke of Montrose and Lady Altmann asked about pests. Of the 20 pests on the EU priority pest list, 11 already have UK contingency plans and five relate to tropical fruit flies and citrus pests; for the remaining four, contingency plans have been prioritised for development. I say to my noble friend Lady Altmann that our risk assessment is of the risk to Great Britain now and our responsibilities for biosecurity.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Walney, that protecting against Xylella remains a priority. We have intensified our surveillance, inspection and testing regime for Xylella host plants because they present a considerable danger.
On IT, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, all essential deliverables are ready for 1 January, including essential IT system amendments, solutions for inland checks for transit material and UK passports, and all external content and guidance. Recruitment is under way in the APHA. On the resources point, the Government are investing £705 million to ensure that our border systems are fully operable by 1 January. The APHA is well on track to have in place more than 200 new inspectors and administrative staff by the end of the year, and we expect this number to increase to 250 full-time equivalents by July 2021. The Government in Scotland are also boosting resources.
On audits and the audit functions carried out by SANTE F, these have already been incorporated into the UK-wide plant health risk group arrangements. That includes a process on audits to scrutinise third countries exporting to the UK and manage the scrutiny from third countries to which we want to export.
On the other point from my noble friend Lady Altmann, the UK plant health risk group identifies, assesses and manages plant health risks. This working group will provide an equivalent level of technical scrutiny. On the question of general powers in the event of a significant plant health risk, general plant health powers are available.
On TRACES, although linking to TRACES remains an option, with third countries able to manually input data to the EU system, during 2021 we are aiming to use the International Plant Protection Convention hub as a single platform to exchange electronic phytosanitary certificates instead of unnecessarily doubling our own efforts by creating multiple interfaces for the rest of the world trade and the EU.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about devolution. We are working closely with officials. Separate but parallel domestic legislation is being made in Scotland and Wales, which will ensure that plant health regulations are completely aligned in Great Britain, while respecting devolved arrangements. The plant passport numbers will be compatible. Our experts continue to enable horizon scanning, undertaken by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization and other organisations.
On the question of the basis of the review and further reviews of legislation, the UK intends to ensure that its SPS regime remains appropriate to address the risks that it faces. Defra has a dedicated team of specialist plant health risk analysts and managers working with the devolved Administrations, monitoring emerging and revised threats.
I am fully aware that, in a period of change, there will be businesses that are worried. I want to reassure all businesses that this is a very important task for Defra and the APHA. We are working on these matters daily and will continue to do so. This is a great opportunity for UK businesses. I understand the difficulties and we are working with them. But on the basis of these instruments being about UK and GB biosecurity, I beg to move.