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Animal Welfare and Invasive Non-native Species (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Volume 808: debated on Monday 30 November 2020

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Animal Welfare and Invasive Non-native Species (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Relevant document: 33rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, this instrument amends earlier EU exit regulations relating to three areas: animal welfare, leghold traps and pelt imports, and invasive non-native species. These amendments ensure that EU retained law continues to remain effective and operable from the end of the transition period and in accordance with the Northern Ireland protocol. This instrument amends the regulations relating to the welfare of animals during transport, at control posts and at slaughter, and ensures that they remain operable in line with the Northern Ireland protocol.

This instrument will end recognition in Great Britain of transporter authorisations, driver and attendant certificates of competence, vehicle approvals and journey logs issued by an EU member state. From the end of the transition period, EU transporters will need to apply to a competent authority for these documents to be able to continue to transport animals in and through Great Britain. This will allow for greater enforcement, create a level playing field and ensure that GB transporters are not commercially disadvantaged. Transport documents issued in Northern Ireland will continue to be accepted for use in Great Britain. Additionally, it ensures that we meet obligations under the UK-Ireland common travel area by making provision for training carried out in the Republic of Ireland to be recognised as equivalent to that of Great Britain for the purposes of granting a driver or attendant certificate of competence in Great Britain.

This instrument makes amendments to regulations protecting animals at slaughter and will ensure that slaughterers’ certificates of competence issued in any part of the UK will continue to be recognised across Great Britain. Without these amendments, EU transporters could continue to remove animals into and through the UK, but we would lack the ability to take enforcement action if they breached the welfare in transport rules. The ability to suspend or revoke a certificate of competence or a transporter authorisation, following an animal welfare incident, until that transporter has been retrained is, we believe, an important enforcement mechanism. Live animal movements should be carefully planned and based on predicted journey times; for long journeys these must be approved by the competent authority, as any delay can result in significant animal welfare issues. The amendment will ensure that from the start of the year, EU transporters will need to apply to the GB competent authority to gain approval of their planned journeys.

Existing exit instruments made operability amendments to the retained EU leghold trap regulation. The regulation prohibits the use of leghold traps and the import of pelts and manufactured goods from certain wild animal species. The proposed amendments in this instrument make the retained EU legislation compatible with the requirements of the Northern Ireland protocol and ensure that imports of pelts and pelt products from the EU will be treated in the same way as imports from any other third country. It will continue to prohibit the use of leghold traps in Great Britain and to ensure that only pelts sourced from captive-bred animals or from approved countries which abide by humane trapping standards are imported. This will maintain the high standards and existing controls that are currently in place around pelt imports.

Finally, this instrument amends retained EU exit regulations relating to invasive species. Again, these are technical amendments to ensure the proper working of retained EU law and domestic legislation for regulating the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive non-native species. These changes implement the Northern Ireland protocol and make minor changes to improve enforcement and ensure the effective implementation of emergency measures under domestic legislation.

The amendments make provision for the devolved Administrations to be consulted appropriately over species listing and decisions in reserved matters. Changes also allow traders in Northern Ireland to continue to use already established rules on the sale of commercial stocks after a species has been listed. The amendments ensure that specimens do not have to be transported to England or Wales if seized at the UK border. This allows border officials in Northern Ireland and Scotland to send seized animals to local facilities instead of having to send them to England or Wales. They also make a minor change relating to civil sanctions to bring clarity to the procedure and appeal rights for non-compliance penalties served following breach of an enforcement undertaking.

Further, these changes allow for temporary emergency restrictions on previously unlisted species to be introduced and enforced promptly. These amendments ensure that the Northern Ireland protocol is upheld and, in line with current government policy, that we can enforce our high animal welfare standards and protect the United Kingdom’s biosecurity. I beg to move.

My Lords, I welcome very much the opportunity to discuss the regulations before us today. I have a number of comments to make and questions to ask.

Obviously, it is important to keep invasive and non-invasive species under review. What is the general rule? For example, does the department keep under regular review brent geese, grey squirrels and badgers, given all the damage they do?

On the implications for protecting animals at the time of slaughter, the fact that many small abattoirs were closed some 20 years ago is a matter of regret. Does the department intend to keep this under review, and what chance is there of small abattoirs being brought back, which would be very welcome in rural areas?

The number of vets is a cause for concern, particularly given that fewer are coming from the European Union and those who are here may decide to leave. Presumably, it takes approximately six years to train a vet. Does my noble friend share my concern about the number of vets who will be available at the point of slaughter from 1 January, and what specific measures will be taken? I welcome the increase in the number of vets going through university at the moment, but there may be an immediate shortage, so what steps are the Government taking to ensure that that will be addressed from 1 January?

In the event of a no deal or even a minimal deal—what we are apparently calling the “Australia deal”—there may be delays at ports, which would potentially lead to a short-term animal welfare issue. How will this be monitored at ports, in particular Kent and Holyhead, and how will this be addressed from 1 January? A limited number of animals will be transported live, but how will this be addressed in the event of delays, especially in hot weather later next year?

The 33rd report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which has been extremely useful in preparing for today, quotes Defra as saying:

“Although EU and GB standards will remain aligned at the end of the transition period, we have ambitions to strengthen the welfare in transport standards in the near future. We want to ensure that going forward EU transporters who move live animals into Great Britain adhere to our standards.”

I am sure that anybody wishing to import will do so, but more especially when exporting as well. Will my noble friend give a commitment today that the Government will absolutely respect the World Trade Organization rules in this regard and ensure—albeit at a minimum—that live trade, such as, for example, lambs to France for the season in spring, will continue?

I am concerned, particularly given the announcement that George Eustice is making or has made today, that the livestock farming industry is not being as well looked after by this Government as it has been in the past. I think that the live trade in animals is something like one in six. In 1992, when this became an issue, I boarded a ferry to see how these animals were being transported, and I was hugely impressed by the length that the transporters and hauliers went to to ensure that the lambs were enjoying the best conditions possible—and I was certainly persuaded that they enjoyed better conditions than those that we similarly enjoyed at the time on cross-channel ferries.

In relation to pelts and the import of pelt products, I understand that there is currently still a ban on mink and fur from Denmark, because of the Covid regulations there. This is a source of deep concern to me, being half Danish. Is this something that the Government are keeping under review—not just from Denmark but from other areas that are affected by the cross-contamination of the Covid virus in mink? When will this ban be reviewed and what are the implications for the fur trade?

In the 33rd report by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Defra is further quoted as saying that the process to apply for the documents to which my noble friend referred will not change. Is it a new charge that is referred to in paragraph 40, where it states that TAs and journey logs are currently issued free of charge, COCs cost around £360 per certificate including training, while vehicle approval costs around £200 per vehicle? Has there been an impact assessment? Was a consultation held, and were the results of the consultation published? What will be the average cost per transporter, and will the Government keep this under review? I will, obviously, continue to take an interest in this, but I welcome the opportunity to discuss these points today.

It is a pleasure to follow the excellent and apposite questions from the noble Baroness. I will add a few questions of my own, and give the Minister the chance in his summation to update us on various issues, many of which I think have been around since the Brexit vote, and certainly since the initial version of the regulations were passed. To my mind, issues in a number of areas remain uncertain.

First, beyond the bald legal changes in the regulations being amended today, is there yet agreement on how they will be made to work across all four countries of the UK without the co-ordinating function of the European Commission? How has that been working over recent months?

I noted that the Minister said in the debate on 22 January last year, when the regulations were initially laid:

“We are proposing that the programme board on non-native species takes over the role of the committee, while the GB non-native risk analysis panel will take on the role of the scientific forum”.—[Official Report, 22/1/19; col. 675]

Has this now been established, and will the Minister update the Committee today on those arrangements?

Secondly, how in practice will the UK continue to co-operate with the European Union on invasive non-native species surveillance and management? This question has been asked in parallel in many different parts of regulation, way beyond the environmental sphere. It is obviously of critical importance. The Minister has stressed throughout this process that there will be close co-operation, as we would expect. However, the effectiveness will be in how these measures work out in practice.

In the world before Brexit, the European Union was central to the Government’s biosecurity strategy. The perusal of the 2014 strategy, as it was laid out, begs a number of questions now about how that close co-operation will work. For example, the EU regulations specified particular requirements for inspections of controlled trades. Do the regulations require that those same regulations are to be followed post Brexit? Is that the Government’s intention, if there is no legal requirement to do that?

Are there now plans for the routine checks of plants and plant material that would previously have been prohibited under the single market rules? If so, what has been set out to do that and what level of resource would be required?

For many years, the European Union plant health regime has applied the risk-based categorisation of material from outside the EU: prohibited, controlled and uncontrolled. Post January, how will the UK regime have regard to that—or is it doing so now? Does it expect to lean on the research done by the European Union? Does it have its own separate analysis? When the regulations were scrutinised last year, the question was raised of whether the UK would have formal access to that analysis and intelligence. At the time, the Minister’s response, understandably, was “Wait and see”. Can he give us an update? How will the plant passport system work post January?

Finally, I want to ask about the prospect of an increased commitment on invasive species that have long been on these islands. When various Ministers, past and present, were selling the biosecurity benefits of Brexit, they talked about it being an opportunity to increase biosecurity levels. I want to bring the Minister back to an issue that was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh: the grey squirrel. Is this not an opportunity for firmer government support for communities such as those in Cumbria that seek increased support to deal with the grey squirrel, which, in our area and other areas of the UK, continues to endanger livelihoods and the sustainability of the native red squirrel.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for outlining this statutory instrument, which clearly is necessary. Like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, I thank the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee for clearly outlining some of the issues arising from it. I will try not to ask the same questions that the noble Baroness asked, but I will address some of the same issues, perhaps sometimes from a different perspective.

I will start with transport. Obviously, there is some concern that a changeover will happen rapidly, in one day. The noble Baroness talked about what might happen in the coming months, particularly from 1 January. Has any consideration been given to asking for a moratorium or even providing a regulatory limit, given that there clearly is a risk of real problems in the early days and weeks, in order to ensure that animals do not get trapped in enormously long queues? Will there be provision to ensure that animal transports with possible welfare issues can be shuffled through those queues, so that the animals do not remain in what could be very cold conditions for an inappropriately long time?

Turning to EU transporters having to apply for all the paperwork listed in the statutory instrument, does the Minister know how many vehicles are likely to be affected? How many that can already apply have already done so? I am thinking of situations that could arise from a shortage of vehicles and new people coming into the industry without the experience that operators might have built up over many years. Have the Government considered whether there are any extra training needs, in order to ensure that there are skilled, experienced people with the right equipment and knowledge to ensure that animals are transported, where necessary, safely?

I also want to address the issue of mink and Covid-19, which the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, raised, although I am definitely coming from a different perspective. I consider mink farming to be a disastrous and, as we now know, dangerous practice; it would be very good if no more mink pelts came into the UK—or, indeed, farmed animal pelts of any kind, perhaps. However, given the risk of zoonoses such as Covid-19, what continuing monitoring will the Government bring in to make sure that the risk of transmission of both animal and human disease through pelts is adequately addressed?

I also want to address some broader issues. As others have already noted, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee was told that the Government have ambitions to strengthen welfare and transport standards in the near future. I note that during both the Brexit referendum campaign and the 2019 general election, Boris Johnson, among many others, suggested that, for some people, a reason for leaving a European Union with very little in the way of a level playing field would be a ban on live animal exports. How is that ban coming along, and what are the Government’s plans?

I note the general desire expressed by the Government to strengthen animal welfare provisions; however, some deeply disturbing events are taking place. In the Peak District in recent weeks, mountain hares have been slaughtered and used in stink pits to trap other animals. The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, among many others, has been campaigning to end the use of stink pits. Scotland plans to increase the protections for mountain hares. Can the Minister tell me now or at some future point whether the Government are looking at the situation of mountain hares and stink pits? Are there any plans to change the current situation?

The statutory instrument refers to leg-hold traps. We are one of only five countries in Europe in which snares are legal. There are slightly different rules and interpretations in Wales, Scotland and England, but this is of course an area of grave concern to many people. The League Against Cruel Sports calculated, based on the Government’s own research, that 1.7 million animals a year are killed in these traps. Although the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that they should be set only for rabbits and foxes, given that so many other animals are regularly caught in them—I am thinking of particularly horrific film footage of a badger, and the reports we hear about domestic pets regularly being caught in, injured by and sometimes even killed by such snares—are the Government taking this opportunity, in reconsidering animal welfare, to look at the whole issue of snares and to consider joining most of the countries of Europe in banning them?

I am aware that I have asked lots of questions and I understand that it might not be possible to get answers to all of them today, but I would appreciate answers at some point.

My Lords, this statutory instrument contains a series of very technical measures, which in many ways are simply a continuation of the present position in relation to all these issues: animal welfare, the movement in import and export of livestock, and the whole question of invasive animal and plant species. The Minister very kindly offered the opposition parties a briefing on these matters, which unfortunately I could not get to in the end, but I thank him for it anyway. I hope that I did not miss anything desperate.

It is a pleasure to take part in my first debate with the noble Lord, Lord Walney, who is waving at me. He is very welcome, in the sense that he is another Member of your Lordships’ House from the north-west of England, which for many people is far away. We may be few and far between, but any addition to the ranks is extremely valuable and helpful, and I very much welcome him to the House.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talked about animal welfare in a number of ways. The questions that she asked were relevant, and I look forward to the Minister’s answers. Today we are having the launch of new measures in relation to farming and land management that come from the Agriculture Bill, which we recently spent a lot of time debating in this House. We passed a Bill that allows the Government to do all kinds of things, some of them extremely welcome in terms of improving the contribution of farming and land management to the natural environment, biodiversity, carbon reduction and the continued supply of good, wholesome food in this country—and, we hope, the increase in all that.

What I have seen so far of today’s launch does not take us much further than saying that it is full of all kinds of good things, which we will look forward to when we see more of the details—and, no doubt, lots of statutory instruments such as this one. In terms of animal welfare, can the Minister confirm that those parts of the Agriculture Act that refer to improved animal husbandry and welfare on farms as well as improved biodiversity and support for native wildlife and animal species, such as the red squirrel that the noble Lord, Lord Walney, mentioned, will still be a government priority?

More important than the question of movement when it comes to alien plant species—although it is very important indeed that checks are kept at least as good as they are now, and preferably improved—is the management of alien species once they have set foot and taken hold on a large scale in this country. Earlier this year, the Government gave their response to a consultation on alien plant species and on a number of the most important ones growing in the wild. Can the Minister give us an update in relation to what is happening to the consultation and the Government’s response, as well as to efforts to eradicate these entirely unhelpful species that exist?

While we are on this, I cannot avoid mentioning Japanese knotweed, which was not on the list and which has been around for rather a long time. For the last few years, the Government have promised us all sorts of magic solutions to this, but we do not seem to have got them yet. Can the Minister update us on what is happening about that?

On the whole question of alien species, there are long-standing nuisances such as grey squirrels, which many people love and delight in having in their area—there is a lot of education to be done in large areas of England if we are going to move to replacing grey squirrels with the red squirrels that they replaced, not just in places where they are still hanging on, such as the Lake District. It would be very helpful if we could have a House of Lords debate on these matters as soon as possible, because major issues of management need discussing now that, as the Minister might perhaps say, we have “taken back control” of what we do about them. As the noble Lord, Lord Walney, said, this is about co-ordination of action across the United Kingdom. The Scottish Highlands is an area where red squirrels can still be seen; I have seen them in the Highlands, as well as in the Lake District. That co-ordination across the United Kingdom is very important, as is the level of resources that go into this work. Again, as the noble Lord said, that is something that needs serious attention.

As always, I was interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, had to say—in this case, about small abattoirs and vets. I remember when we had a small abattoir in our town; it was a damned nuisance because the blood ran across the back street. Now we have the biggest abattoir in the north of England, which is a rather different matter. But getting back to small abattoirs, if it is in any way possible, particularly in the more remote rural parts of this country, is an important issue.

All the issues raised are interesting and important. Most of them are probably not specifically and technically related to what the statutory instrument actually says, but I look forward to the Minister’s reply on all of them.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this SI this afternoon and for organising the very helpful briefing beforehand, which I was able to attend. We have heard some interesting contributions and a number of questions, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. It is clear that the changes in the proposed SI are necessary in the three different areas that it covers— namely, to secure the continuation of an effective regime for animal welfare in transport, slaughter and other areas; to continue the ban on leg-hold traps and the import of pelts obtained by that method; and to ensure that the strict protections placed against invasive non-native species are maintained. It also, importantly, provides continuity to business in these areas after the end of the transition period. I understand that reciprocal arrangements are being discussed with the Republic of Ireland but have not yet been finalised, so I would be grateful if the Minister could keep us informed on progress in this area.

We welcome the overall purpose of these regulations, which is to uphold these high standards in different areas of animal welfare and associated trade policy and apply the rules to EU countries in the same way as to other third countries. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, covered the area of animal welfare in great detail, so I shall not repeat her questions. However, I have a number of questions for the Minister, and I would be grateful for his clarification. A number of noble Lords mentioned the importance of getting the transport arrangements right. The Minister mentioned that one of the main changes is that of transporters having to apply for documentation from a competent authority in Great Britain rather than the EU. How and in what way is that being communicated to interested parties?

It is inevitable, as with any new system when it is introduced, that there will be teething problems. Is there any form of discretion that can be exercised if a transport arrives at a port without the relevant paperwork? If not, have the Government considered what kind of delay this is likely to cause, at what potential cost, and how those teething problems can be resolved?

Looking at the Explanatory Memorandum, I see that paragraph 10.2 talks about the consultation, and consultation outcomes. It states that Her Majesty’s Government have engaged with industry representatives on the recognition of EU journey logs and other certificates and authorisations that are required. Will the Minister outline the nature and timing of this engagement, and can we have an assurance from him that interested parties will be properly consulted ahead of any future policy changes?

On invasive non-native species, I will first say that it was interesting to hear the noble Lord, Lord Walney, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, talk about the red squirrel population. It is very important to support that. I am fortunate enough to have red squirrels visiting my garden and it is very important that we do not lose this precious species. On the other hand, I am not so fortunate in that I regularly battle with Himalayan balsam, which we also have growing extensively along the riverbanks on our land. I welcome the strengthening of these regulations so that emergency measures can be applied in order to add new species, and also the fact that the regulations have been approached in a co-ordinated manner across Great Britain. It is important that we control these invasive species as much as possible and that there is both contingency planning and the ability for a rapid response when required.

I will draw attention also to a couple of paragraphs of the Explanatory Memorandum. First, paragraph 2.24 says that changes to enforcement legislation will

“enable enforcement officers to use discretion when transferring seized specimens to appropriate facilities”.

Will the Minister provide further detail on what this discretion is likely to entail? The Minister also drew our attention to the proposal that items seized in Scotland would be allowed to be transported to a Scottish rather than English facility. Is this the full extent of the change, or will it be extended beyond that?

I think I will end there. We have a lot of questions for the Minister to answer, so I would be very grateful for his consideration of these matters and await his response with interest.

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords for contributing to this debate. We have gone quite wide, but all the topics have been fascinating. I will start by saying that these regulations do not amend any current animal welfare standards. What they do is make operability changes to ensure that the EU law that we have will work appropriately at the end of the transition period.

A number of key points were raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, raised the issue of transporters. This is very important. We have undertaken a significant amount of work to provide information to GB transporters to ensure that they are ready for the end of the transition period: for example, on the new requirements for transporter authorisation, certificates of competence, vehicle approval certification and journey logs. We have reminded them of these responsibilities, including the need to plan their journeys carefully to check that their proposed route is available and to ensure that they have contingency plans in place in the event of any delays. We have published a full list of updates on GOV.UK, as well as providing direct communication and a comprehensive Q&A document to all authorised transporters.

We have also disseminated information about the changes to our counterparts in the EU and have actively encouraged them to share it with their own transporters. Feedback received through APHA and through our stakeholder meetings and webinars has confirmed that both GB and EU transporters are aware of the new requirements and are preparing for the end of the transition period. We are aware, for instance, that GB drivers are already approaching EU member states to apply for certificates of competence.

I turn to inspections. APHA conducts inspections at ports on a risk and intelligence basis. If a transporter arrives at the port and welfare issues are identified, action will be taken by APHA to protect the welfare of the animals concerned. Appropriate regulatory and enforcement action could be taken. This may include, for example, a suspension of transporter authorisation or certificate of competence. I have some further information on that but obviously, we will want to keep all these matters under scrutiny because, clearly, what we want is a vibrant, smooth-running border and the continuance of trade. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, asked about changes. Obviously, we will want to consult because, in the end, this will have the success and the dynamic we all want only if there is that collaboration.

I turn to a number of the points that have been made. My noble friend Lady McIntosh—and, I think, all noble Lords—raised the issue of invasive species, including the grey squirrel and the wonderful red squirrel. The grey squirrel is on the list of species under the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 and we no longer allow the release of grey squirrels from animal rescue centres. We are working closely with the UK Squirrel Accord and APHA on the fertility and control of grey squirrels, and I can tell noble Lords that this is an area on which I place great importance. Not only have we got the red squirrel to protect; we want to plant more trees and we want nature recovery, and the grey squirrel is a very bad invasive species for everything we want relating to trees.

On the discretion of enforcement officers regarding invasive non-native species, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that these amendments ensure that when border officials in Northern Ireland and Scotland seize animals at the UK border, common sense can prevail and they can send them to local facilities rather than to England and Wales.

A number of other points were made. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that we have issued comprehensive advice to all authorised transporters. The number of movements of live animals in January is usually quite low, and we believe that the impact will not be too great. APHA has recruited extra staff to process the additional applications for UK-based transporters. I say also to my noble friend Lady McIntosh that we will prioritise day-old chicks, but other live animals departing from the UK for the EU at the end of the transition period will be required to enter the EU via a border control post designed to deal with them. Transporters have a legal duty to ensure the welfare of animals in their care and should have in place contingency plans to ensure animal welfare even if there is disruption.

An important point was made about vets. I am working with vets from within the UK and also EU nationals, who play such a dramatically important part in the veterinary profession of this country. The Government are working with veterinary organisations to ensure that there is sufficient veterinary resource available to fulfil all duties.

On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, officials from both Defra and the FSA are working with the Sustainable Food Trust on the issues facing small abattoirs and what scope may exist to reduce regulatory burdens. In the end, it is imperative that we have high standards, whether for small or large operators, and we must ensure in all that we do that the safety of food is always paramount.

On the issue of rules on invasive species, a comprehensive review of this list is undertaken every six years. I should say that brent geese overwinter in the UK and therefore are on the native species list—and all of us have spoken at length about the grey squirrel.

Continuing EU collaboration on the issue of invasive species is absolutely essential. We have retained the regulation in our laws, so our stringent prohibition will remain the same. We will continue to remain a contracting party to the Berne convention and will work closely with counterpart jurisdictions. I have attended on a number of occasions the British-Irish Council and of course the island of Ireland is a single epidemiological unit. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that we work on that.

On the issue of live exports, I say to both the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh that it is absolutely clear that we have a commitment to end excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening, and we intend to consult on both our manifesto pledge and other more general welfare-in-transport improvements by the end of this year. So we will be fulfilling our manifesto pledge.

Going back to vehicles, approximately 2,000 are approved for the transport of live animals on long journeys in Great Britain. On snares, current legislation provides strong protection for threatened species and the welfare of trapped animals. Those committing an offence can face an unlimited fine or a custodial sentence. The onus is on trap operators to operate within the law and ensure that their activities do not harm protected species or cause unnecessary suffering.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, raised the issue of mink. I am in constant touch with the Chief Veterinary Officer about this. Clearly, zoonosis is a very live issue at the moment, but always will be. We are keeping a close eye on the Danish situation and other countries where mink farming is undertaken.

Although I wish that there was an unlimited treasure chest to deal with invasive species, our efforts to tackle them are being considered as part of our business planning following the spending review settlement. I should also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that the common travel area agreement places obligations on the UK and the Republic of Ireland to ensure that their nationals have a right to settle and work in both territories. The UK intends to honour its obligations.

Time is short, and I was asked more questions than I could answer in double the time, so I will write to noble Lords on some of the other issues. However, let me say to the noble Lord, Lord Walney, that quite a lot of the plant issues he raised may come up next week, but obviously, there will be checks on plants and plant material; it is very important that we keep our country biosecure. I am interested in how we can enhance biosecurity and continue trade in a sensible manner.

I will look at the other matters raised by noble Lords. In the meantime, I commend these technical and operable regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.