Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, the matters in the four instruments are closely related, and I hope that it will help your Lordships if I speak to them all together. These instruments list the EU to enable imports from EU and EEA member states to continue. We have taken the decision to list the EU to import live animals and animal products because, following an assessment of the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary regime, we do not believe that its risk status will change on 1 January.
The instruments will allow for decisions to be made about a country’s certification processes for plant reproductive material and whether they are equivalent to our own. We have amended our legislation so that, by the end of the transition period, the EU will become Part 1 listed for the non-commercial movement of pets into Great Britain. Practically, this means no change for EU travellers. We are maintaining the current health requirements on pet movements from the EU based on the unchanging disease risk from 1 January, and to ensure that there is minimal impact on pet owners and users of assistance dogs travelling with their pets into Great Britain under the EU pet travel scheme. I emphasise that these instruments are minor and technical in nature. They do not make new policy or change existing policy; instead, they will make existing policy and legislation operable at the end of the transition period.
The Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 amend retained EU regulations governing official controls on imports to Great Britain of animals and animal products, and plants and plant products, including food and other imports relevant to the agri-food chain—collectively known as sanitary and phytosanitary checks. The amendments make these regulations operable in UK legislation after 1 January—for example, by replacing references to powers exercised by the Commission with the same powers exercised by the Secretary of State or other appropriate authority. The intention is to continue to ensure delivery of a robust import controls mechanism for all sanitary and phytosanitary imports to the UK, while maintaining or improving biosecurity and welfare standards.
The Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 make amendments to ensure the continuing operability of provisions related to the import of live animals, including horses, animal products and reproductive material used for animal breeding, and the non-commercial movement of pets. They confer functions previously exercised by EU institutions on to the appropriate domestic authorities and treat EU member states as a third country.
This instrument also amends references to EU laws and systems to ensure that law continues to function after the transition period. It introduces transitional arrangements for imports from the EU and EEA states, maintaining an effective sanitary and phytosanitary regime, while allowing businesses time to prepare for our new import requirements.
The Aquatic Animal Health and Alien Species in Aquaculture, Animals, and Marketing of Seed, Plant and Propagating Material (Legislative Functions and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 cover seven policy areas: aquatic animal health, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and animal by-products, livestock, zoonotic diseases, pet travel, alien and locally absent species in aquaculture, and seed, plants and propagating material.
These regulations make provision for legislative functions that are currently carried out by the EU to be made instead by appropriate authorities in Great Britain after the transition period. They also amend previously made EU exit statutory instruments to reflect the changes needed to implement the Northern Ireland protocol, specifically replacing “United Kingdom” with “Great Britain”. Furthermore, they make amendments to EU exit statutory instruments to reflect changes made to EU regulations. They also make minor corrections to previously made EU exit statutory instruments.
The regulations will also allow for the continued movement of pet animals into Great Britain from all third countries, including EU member states. They guarantee the minimum amount of disruption possible to enable these movements to continue in a manner that protects our biosecurity, as well as the health and welfare of the animals being moved.
I turn finally to the Veterinary Medicines and Residues (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. The existing UK Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 set out requirements for the manufacture, authorisation, supply, possession and administration of veterinary medicines in the UK. The regulations before your Lordships address technical deficiencies in our legislation to ensure that it continues to operate effectively after the transition period. For example, minor corrections have been made to the text to address references concerning EU membership that are no longer accurate.
They also make changes that are necessary to reflect the Northern Ireland protocol, as well as implementing the Government’s commitment to ensuring unfettered market access for Northern Ireland businesses in relation to veterinary medicines. This will mean that the current legislative basis for approving veterinary medicines will be split into separate Great Britain and Northern Ireland regulations. Northern Ireland will continue to follow the EU acquis. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate will continue to operate on behalf of the United Kingdom, and pharmaceutical companies will continue to be able to market veterinary medicines across the whole of the United Kingdom.
These instruments introduce parts of the previously announced phasing-in of border controls on imports from the EU, beginning in January. This will prioritise flow at the border and give both businesses and industry longer to prepare for the introduction of full controls. I beg to move.
I am most grateful to my noble friend for bringing these four instruments before us today and for his very comprehensive introduction. I have a few comments and questions that I know my noble friend will answer as fully as he can.
The Explanatory Memorandum to the Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc.) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 helpfully sets out the purpose of this instrument:
“These controls are integral to the protection of human health and biosecurity in the UK, as they deliver a risk-based and closely defined regime for checking the provenance, health and lack of contamination of SPS goods before they are allowed to pass beyond the control points at the UK border.”
If my reading is correct, some of these may take place internally as well. So I ask my noble friend the fairly obvious question: will we have enough agents? Will customs officers or Food Standards Agency agents perform this? I know that Defra has had an enormous campaign to put enough in place, so I would be interested to hear. Will the controls be actually at the UK border or will some of them be done internally? Will it create a lot of extra work, because we will effectively be a third country, so an import from an EU country will be considered as if from a third country, and we will therefore be asking them to do the checks that would otherwise have been done in other EU countries and that we would have accepted. Will this increase the workload in any way, and do we have the resources, agents, or FSA or customs officers to cover it?
On the second instrument, the Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, I am most grateful to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee for its work. I understand that the new arrangements are being phased in, in time to come into place and allow businesses to adjust by 1 January 2021. Do we think we have given them enough time?
I accept that the new IPAFFS—import of products, animals, food and feed system—will replace TRACES, but is there any benefit to our remaining part of TRACES or will we drop that completely? There are also issues of resources. Do we have enough staff involved? Will a new computer system be involved and is it already up and running? Is my noble friend convinced that that will suffice?
I think it is this instrument that relates to the trade in horses. I was very keen, as I know were a number of noble Lords and honourable and right honourable Members next door, to continue the agreement that relates to the movement of horses—I have forgotten what it is called—that France, Britain and Ireland were members of. Have we managed to read that across and will it remain in place, at least with those countries, or have we lost it completely?
The third instrument relates to aquatic animal health and alien species. The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised a number of interesting questions. As its 34th report was published in mid-November, the situation may have changed. Paragraph 56 states:
“We note that it is not clear at this stage what the process and requirements will be for moving pets from GB to Ireland via NI after the end of the TP.”
Has that now been resolved?
It was good to know that there are no additional processes, paperwork or restrictions in Northern Ireland, as noted in paragraph 57, but that there will be a requirement for export health certification. My noble friend will be aware that a number of us have concerns. I declare that I am an associate fellow of the British Veterinary Association—the BVA. There is concern about whether there will be a sufficient number of qualified vets in place to consider all these issues at the point of entry, presumably, with products moving across to Great Britain, delivering unfettered access. Does my noble friend share my concern or is he able to put my mind at rest in that regard? I welcome the fact that, I think, 600 new places have been found at veterinary schools this year—that is good news indeed—but, if we are losing the expertise of the European Union vets, many of whom have voted with their feet to leave the United Kingdom, will that be a problem as of 1 January?
Paragraph 57, quoting the department, states:
“A new Trader Support Service, available to all traders at no cost, will be established”.
We took evidence on this in the EU Environment Sub-Committee, and it is a source of concern. My question is simple: when does my noble friend expect that the trader support service will be open for business and to give advice as required?
On the last instrument, on veterinary medicines and residues, the 34th report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee helpfully looked at this. In paragraph 60, Defra confirms that if the conditions set out are met and an application has been made to a,
“dedicated place of establishment … and has provided the same application dossier and supporting information to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate as they would have provided to the European Medicines Agency or the relevant authority in an EU Member State”—
there are no safety concerns and a certificate will be issued to allow the products to be marketed in Great Britain. Again, my question is simple: does my noble friend expect any initial delays in coming to terms with the possible volume of applications or the setting up of the new system? Does he expect any costs to apply?
I understand that Friends of the Earth raised a number of concerns, in particular about one requirement from EU law which does not come into effect until November 2022, after we have left and after the end of the transition period. Are there any possible measures that may have been agreed to by the United Kingdom, relating to draft veterinary medicines and residues or the other instruments before us this afternoon, that will not have been implemented before 31 December? If that were to be case, what would be the legal position? My noble friend may not have that information at his fingertips, and I would be grateful if he could write to me.
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to consider the instruments before us today and I thank my noble friend and his department for all their work in putting these in place and making us ready for 1 January.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his outline of this very complex and rather packed schedule for the hour, and it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. I will do my best not to repeat any of her questions, because I will cover some similar ground.
I will start where she left off, with the Veterinary Medicines and Residues (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. The Minister in his introduction—and the Government right through this whole process—stressed that this is a straight transfer over. But, like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, I have relied heavily on the work of Friends of the Earth, which retains significant concerns, having looked at this in great detail.
One specific question that it has raised concerns Regulation 5 of this SI, which deletes Regulation 18 of the Animals and Animal Products (Examination for Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) (England and Scotland) Regulations 2015, which set out the EU-authorised methods of analysis. Defra has said that this is covered under article 7 of the EU regulation 2019, but that refers to a different EU regulation, so a significant part of Regulation 18 has been omitted. This suggests that there is a disapplication of the requirements within the context, despite claims to the contrary. I appreciate that this is very complex, and if the Minister is unable to respond now, perhaps he might write on this. I would be happy to put it in writing if that would be easier.
Also, Regulation 7(8) omits an update to reference points for action that are set out in retained EU law, in Article 8 of regulation 2019/1871. That refers to things such as chloramphenicol, malachite green and nitro- furans. This appears to be a weakening of the previous intent, so do the Government plan to put in place RPAs on or before 28 November 2022 that are as strong as or stronger than those that will exist up until 31 December?
Finally in this section, I come to Regulation 8(3), which removes references to MRL levels, as previously agreed at EU level and set out in regulation 37/2010, and replaces them with references to regulation 470/2009. It has been suggested that administrative processes will be the way this will be achieved, but it has not been clarified when this will happen, and whether the EU levels will be used as a baseline. Can the Minister set out what the Government’s immediate plans are for setting out relevant MRLs and other restrictions relating to the use of veterinary medicines in food-producing animals, and say whether this process will be complete before the end of the transition period?
I will move on to something that is perhaps a little simpler. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, referred to the issue of pet passports. We know that, certainly before Covid, around 300,000 pets were moving into the UK every year through the pet travel scheme. The report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee noted that much will depend on the category of third country that Great Britain falls in after the transition period—which in turn, of course, will depend on what happens in the talks that are still going on, with less than a month to go. On the practicalities, and putting this in everyday language, it may be that, despite Covid, some people are thinking of travelling with their pets over the Christmas period. What advice would the Minister give—what security and certainty can he provide—to people travelling with their pets on the circumstances that will prevail when they return to the UK after 1 January?
Finally, I will move on to the Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations. Here I am again relying heavily on Friends of the Earth, to whom I pay tribute for the huge amount of work it has done on this. Again, we have had reassurances that things are not changing, but there appear to be some very clear changes. For example, Regulation 16 omits Regulation 21 of the Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011, covering in particular where a consignment is regarded as a serious threat to animal or human health and the official veterinary surgeon or fish inspector must immediately place the consignment under official detention and order that the person responsible for it should destroy it or arrange for the appropriate treatment. This has now been deleted, which could result in consignments being released from border control posts without detention. Can the Minister clarify whether this change illustrates a difference in government intent regarding the way in which goods that may endanger human or animal health are dealt with at border posts? If not, what future legislative or regulatory changes are planned to deal with this apparent gap?
I will refer also to Regulation 17, which amends Regulation 22 of the TARP regulation, covering situations where products entering the UK have been the subject of serious contraventions of an import requirement, or contraventions that form part of a series, or where checks reveal that maximum residue levels have been exceeded. That regulation states that a person
“must carry out a physical check”—
but it seems that this is now being removed. Perhaps the Minister could clarify in what circumstances it would be acceptable for the appropriate person to refrain from carrying out a physical check on goods suspected of being non-compliant with UK import standards. How do the Government envisage that physical checks will be guaranteed in the light of this legislative change?
I move on to Regulation 29(a) to (d), which deletes references to a number of offences. Will the Minister clarify whether it is the intention that activities such as consigning an animal without a health certificate will no longer be considered offences under the TARP regulation? If so, why is enforcement effectively being abandoned? If this provision is seen to be duplicative of provisions elsewhere in legislation or regulations, can the Minister clarify where they are?
I had a question about equine health certificates, which I think the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, covered, so I will skip that. I now come to Regulation 40(4), which amends Commission decision 2000/572. I will boil this down, as I am aware of the time. This is all about EU forms. Do the Government intend to replicate EU forms, are they in the process of developing new forms, and how will they ensure ongoing consistency in this area?
I have two final points. The first is on official controls on composite products at the border. This refers to Regulation 49, which adds a new article 3. Will the Minister clarify whether future UK controls on composite products at the border will cover these products, as set out in the annexes of Commission decision 2007/275? Will a complete list be published by the end of the transition period? If not, do the Government expect to be able to clarify which composite products will be subject to controls at the border?
Finally—noble Lords will probably be pleased to hear—I come to Regulation 53(26)(a)(i)(bb), which amends annexe 8 of the Commission’s regulation that refers to poultry and eggs sourced from establishments with conditions
“as strict as those laid down”
in the EU. This appears to be an opportunity for equivalence to be applied in ways that will allow imports that do not meet standards as strict as those laid down in EU legislation. Will the Minister clarify whether there is any significance in the change from reference to standards “laid down” to those described in the regulation? What processes or criteria do the Government plan to use to determine equivalence of standards in future, and how will the Government ensure that, where direct references to standards are replaced with references to equivalence, this does not lead to a weakening of standards in practice?
I can only say at this point that I thank the Committee for its patience.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his extensive introduction and for his time and that of his officials in a briefing on these four statutory instruments—quite a number to be taking in a one-hour debate.
The Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc.) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations deal with the operability of import controls, border controls and checking, with easements between January and July. The instrument is Great Britain-wide and consistent with EU regulations. It deals with a range of important changes to the agri-food chain, known as “sanitary and phytosanitary”—SPS—products. The SI does not change SPS import control policy but ensures that a robust import control mechanism is in place for imports into the UK, maintaining and improving biosecurity and welfare standards.
In annexe 2 of the Explanatory Memorandum, under paragraph 3, “Regulations revoked in this instrument”, at bullet point 4 the heading is “Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/530 designating European Reference laboratories for pests of plants on insects and mites, nematodes, bacteria, fungi and oomycetes, viruses, viroids and phytoplasmas”. Can the Minister say, as this regulation is revoked, where, if anywhere, the insects and plant life will be listed and covered? Is there another SI that covers this area? I am particularly interested in nematodes. Perhaps the Minister can provide clarification.
Turning to the second instrument, the draft Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, consent has been received from Scotland and Wales to implement an identical SI. The SI was previously used for third countries. Products of animal origin—POAO—can pose a risk, including African swine fever. However, outside the transition period the country can have better control, including over importation of olive trees and preventing the importation of Xylella, which we debated last year.
From January 2021, importers of animal by-products and live animals will be required to pre-notify via GB’s new system for notification of imports: IPAFFS. From April 2021, importers of POAO will also be required to pre-notify via IPAFFS. This is likely to add to staffing costs in 21,600 firms. Can the Minister say whether there is an estimate of what those staffing costs are likely to be?
The Secondary Legislation and Scrutiny Committee noted:
“While the instrument proposes extensive amendments in this policy area over more than 18 pages … the Explanatory Memorandum provides limited explanation of the proposed changes”.
The SI itself is extremely complex and refers to numerous other statutory instruments which are being amended or deleted, as we have heard from other speakers. The Explanatory Memorandum really does not make any detailed comment about those. As I am not an expert in these matters, I feel somewhat at a disadvantage on this instrument, which does not provide legal clarity. The Government’s legislation website does not yet reflect all changes made. It is unclear in many cases if any errors or weakening have been introduced through combined changes. Can the Minister say at what point the Government expect the GOV.UK website to be bought up to date to reflect changes made by Brexit statutory instruments?
The third statutory instrument, the Aquatic Animal Health and Alien Species in Aquaculture, Animals, and Marketing of Seed, Plant and Propagating Material (Legislative Functions and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 sounds very much like a catch-all statutory instrument. This SI takes account of the Northern Ireland protocol and the movement of animals into Great Britain. This is an important SI as it covers several policy areas: seed, plant and plant propagating materials; aquatic animal health; transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and animal by-products; livestock zoonotic diseases; pet travel; and the use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture, as the Minister already listed. From my previous contributions in Defra SI debates over the last 18 months, I understand something of most items on that list. I understand the use of alien species in aquaculture, which will include American crayfish. But I am afraid I do not understand what is covered by “locally absent species”. Are these species which are not alien to Great Britain but which may be alien to a particular area of Great Britain, as they usually live in a specific region? Can the Minister give an example of what this might mean?
I have questions on several paragraphs in the Explanatory Memorandum. Paragraph 2.7 talks about the transfer of zoonotic diseases from animals to humans. Presumably, this also works the other way around. Mink in Denmark spring to mind as an example of Covid moving from humans to animals. Paragraph 7.8 refers to pet passports, which allow UK-based owners of dogs, cats and ferrets to travel between EU member states and certain listed third countries. Given the similarity between mink and ferrets, does the Minister think it is currently safe for ferrets to travel out of the UK into an EU country and then return to the UK? Is there a restriction for those travelling with ferrets on visiting certain areas of Denmark?
The last SI, the draft Veterinary Medicines and Residues (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, includes provision for the Northern Ireland protocol. The instrument protects animals, people handling the medicines, consumers of produce from treated animals, and the environment. It is essential that animal welfare is high on the agenda, and the treatment of animals with veterinary medicines to relieve suffering and discomfort is important. However, this must be balanced with the impact and effect on the public consuming animal products.
During the pandemic we have become especially conscious of the effect of antibiotics. For some time, we have been aware that that overconsumption of antibiotics for minor ailments which easily heal themselves in a short time should be avoided. Overuse of antibiotics for minor conditions can harm our chances of relying on these drugs when we are seriously ill and desperately need their intervention.
Ensuring that antibiotics are not overpresent in animal products for human consumption is all part of essential management of veterinary medicines. Can the Minister give reassurance that this SI will indeed ensure that the maximum residue limits are not reached in foodstuffs? Can he also give reassurance that non-allowed pharmacologically active substances will not be found in foodstuffs? Can he clarify whether future UK rules on MRL levels will be as strong as or stronger than the current EU baseline as set out in the annexes of regulation 37/2010? Can he provide an update on the process of setting out relevant MRLs and other restrictions relating to the use of veterinary medicines in food-producing animals, and say whether this process will be complete before the end of the transition period?
These are varied and complex statutory instruments, but I am happy for them to be approved so that Great Britain and Northern Ireland can continue to operate effectively at the end of the transition period. I look forward to the Minister’s response to the questions raised and points made in this debate.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to these SIs and for the helpful briefing he organised beforehand. I accept that a number of technical and operational updates have been included, which makes sense. It is of course important that we have a functioning import system once the transition is over. However, I have a few questions that it would be helpful if the Minister could address.
First, as a minor point, I note that paragraph 7.1 of the EM for the first SI states that the intention is to continue delivery of robust import controls for all sanitary and phytosanitary imports while
“maintaining or improving biosecurity and welfare standards.”
Perhaps the Minister could explain what these improvements might be, as I could find no clear explanation of the Government’s intention in this regard.
The second SI has been substantially rewritten, based on the earlier SIs, as a result of the substantial amendments needed, and I agree that that approach makes sense and allows for easier scrutiny of the proposed text. There are obvious sanitary and phytosanitary risks from animal and animal product imports. Paragraph 2.2 of the EM refers to the need for
“appropriate safeguard actions to be taken in case of a reported non-compliance with official controls or disease outbreak in exporting countries.”
What do these actions include? Do they include banning imports from specific individual countries? Would we be able to target individual countries, or would there need to be an EU-wide ban for certain products if a particular section within the EU was involved?
Paragraph 7.2 explains that a new approach to managing biosecurity risk will be introduced from 1 April 2021. What arrangements are in place between 1 January and 1 April, and can we be confident that the new arrangements will be in place from 1 April? Paragraph 12.3 refers to importers of animals and animal products having to pre-notify the Government of imports from 1 January using the new technical system, IPAFFS, which replaces TRACES. Can the Minister confirm that IPAFFS has been fully tested, is a secure and reliable system and is able to deal with the volume of import trade which will come its way? Can he also clarify whether the devolved nations will be using IPAFFS as a pre-notification system so that all that information can be shared?
Turning to the third SI, on aquatic animal health et cetera, there are a number of technical changes to maintain control of aquatic animal diseases and to continue biosecurity standards which seem to make sense. However, all noble Baronesses have raised the issue, covered in the report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, of pet passports for the 300,000 pets moving across the border annually. As it points out, the SI allows pets travelling from the EU to the UK to continue to use the EU-issued pet passport. However, that does not yet mean that pets travelling the other way, from the UK to the EU, will have equivalent rights. When will we hear whether the EU has granted us part 1 listed status, which would allow this mutual benefit of travel both ways to continue? Is that part of the current Brexit negotiations, or a completely separate process? If part 1 listed status is denied by the EU, will we also review our attitude to the status of pets coming the other way, into the UK?
The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee also asked about the impact of separate zoonotic and biosecurity disease requirements for GB and Northern Ireland. It was told that goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland would need export health certification and that a trader support service will be available to support businesses. This issue was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, who asked whether the trader support scheme was already up and functioning and, if not, when it will be. The EM goes on to say that there will be no significant impact on businesses. May I ask the Minister to reflect on that statement, given the cost and potential complexities of providing export health certification to businesses that will be exporting to both Northern Ireland and the EU?
Turning to the fourth SI, which deals with veterinary medicines and residues, there is clearly concern about the potential risks to human health and the environment, as well as to animal welfare—issues echoed by the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh, Lady Bennett and Lady Bakewell. For example, we have made considerable progress in the UK on cutting back on the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry. However, I read recently that over the same period, the US has doubled its use of antibiotics. There are similar concerns about the use of hormone-injected beef in the US, which is currently banned in the UK. So, there is a need to be vigilant about our protections for the future.
In a submission to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Friends of the Earth referred to the forthcoming EU regulation, due to be enacted in November 2022, which will update the reference action points for antibiotics and antimicrobials. There will not be an equivalent update in the UK. May I ask the Minister to assure the House that a regulation at least equivalent to the latest scientific evidence and safeguards in the EU will be introduced in the UK, and can he explain whether that will be on a timely basis?
The EM also refers to the provision of a surveillance programme for residues of veterinary medicines in foodstuffs. What will be the nature of this surveillance? Will it include visiting the country of origin to check on animal welfare and potential contamination of animal products? What measures are contained in the SI for countries and export businesses that do not comply with our high food quality standards? Does the SI also apply to manufacturers of insecticide flea products for pets, which have been shown recently to be contaminating our watercourses?
Finally, these SIs have not been consulted on because the changes they make are relatively minor. What will be the formal consultation process for changes in policy post transition? A number of them have been flagged up in the SIs as coming on stream in the future. Will those future policy consultations meet the Cabinet guidelines for consultation?
I look forward to the Minister’s response to these questions.
My Lords, I hope that all noble Baronesses will appreciate that a very considerable number of detailed questions have been posed, and I think it would be helpful to us all if I write in some detail on some of the more technical matters.
I will open by saying that none of these statutory instruments is about a change in policy. There is absolutely no weakening of the very high bar of security for this country that we all want. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that if there were any potential changes in this area, there would need to be, and we would want, consultations with the devolved Administrations and interested parties as we seek to enhance and strengthen our arrangements.
I turn, in no particular order, to the points that were made. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about the revoking of regulations covered in the official controls instrument. All revocations in this instrument relate to designation of European reference centres. These EU designations will no longer be applicable in Great Britain after 31 December.
The noble Baroness also referred to the African swine fever outbreak in parts of Europe. Obviously, we are keeping these matters under close scrutiny. Pork products, for instance, are products of animal origin that are at high risk of being contaminated with African swine fever. Specific safeguard measures are already in place to prevent the introduction of such diseases. We do not expect the biosecurity risk from EU imports to change after 1 January, but I emphasise again that this a matter on which I have regular discussions with the Chief Veterinary Officer, because we clearly need to watch the profile of this disease and be ready to act.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about checks on products of animal origin coming into force on 1 April, rather than 1 January. We are introducing import controls for EU countries in a phased approach in order to give businesses, many impacted by Covid, time to adjust, while maintaining effective biosecurity controls. As I have said, we do not expect there to be changes in biosecurity risk in that period. From 1 April, there will be new requirements for products of animal origin to be pre-notified, and all goods must be accompanied by a British health certificate and will undergo remote documentary checks. From July, products of animal origin imported from the EU will be subject to risk-based identity and physical checks. Some commodities, such as shellfish, will be subject to higher check levels. This will allow us to maintain the highly effective sanitary and phytosanitary regime, while allowing businesses time to prepare for our new import requirements.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about safeguard measures. If there is a disease outbreak in a country approved to export to Great Britain, the Secretary of State, with agreement from the devolved Administrations, may publish a written declaration banning all restricted imports from the affected area. The legislation allows us to regionalise a country where an outbreak has occurred, so that imports can continue from those parts of the country that are free of disease.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell and Lady Jones, asked about IPAFFS. Non-EU countries were able to use IPAFFS for live animals from 23 November and can use it from 7 December for products of animal origin and high-risk food of non-animal origin. EU countries can currently use IPAFFS for live animals and germinal products, and from April 2021 will be able, as I have described, to use it for products of animal origin and high-risk food of non-animal origin. I can tell the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that, yes, the devolved Administrations will use IPAFFS.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked how it was going. The system is working well and has received positive feedback from border control posts. We have been supporting countdown communications and webinars, and are working very closely on that matter with all concerned. On the creation of additional BCPs, we are working with ports and airports to develop a delivery programme that will be supported by the investment fund of £705 million announced in July of this year.
On pet travel, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that continuous guidance has been put out to pet owners. I understand and appreciate that pet owners want to know about this. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about Part 1 listed status. We will continue to press the Commission on this as we are confident that the United Kingdom fulfils all the criteria and obligations required of a Part 1 listed third country as a minimum. We operate one of the most rigorous pet-checking regimes in Europe to protect our biosecurity. As I said, we have announced our plans. That is because we have respect for the EU’s checking regimes. I think we deserve Part 1 listed status. I know that many will wish to have further updates on this, and if I have any further information I will of course provide it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about locally absent species and alien species in aquaculture. I have an example: warm-water prawn. An alien and locally absent species is a species or subspecies of an aquatic organism occurring outside its known natural range, or any artificially modified species irrespective of its natural range or dispersal potential. What a form of words, my Lords.
The issue of ferrets is historical: ferrets were included in the non-commercial pet travel scheme following discussions between EU member states when the regulations were made. I reassure all noble Lords that the Chief Veterinary Officer keeps these matters under constant review. We will risk assess individual applications made for imports. We are not banning the importation of ferrets at this time as there is no evidence to suggest that pets can directly transmit the virus to humans. That is a different context from the issue of large mink farms in certain parts of Europe, where there are very large concentrations of numbers. As I said, I would not want anyone to think anything other than that we will keep all these matters under close review.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell and Lady Jones, asked about the position on antimicrobial resistance. The UK has always played a key role on this, and indeed in the revision of the EU veterinary medicines legislation. The Government intend, like the EU, to strengthen significantly our national law on the use of antibiotics in animals, including restricting the use of antibiotics for prevention of disease. The UK’s unique model of collaborative working between government, farmers and the veterinary profession has halved antibiotic use in livestock, and we now have one of the lowest usages of veterinary antibiotics in Europe—and this must continue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about surveillance. A new expert body is being developed, co-ordinated with Defra, to assess and inspect trading partners that apply for market access to the UK. We will repatriate audit and inspection functions from the EU to ensure that trading partners continue to meet our very important import conditions.
On flea products, I will just say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has commissioned the University of Sussex to carry out additional research to determine the extent—if any—to which these treatments have an impact on the aquatic environment. The results as yet are not available, but it is obviously very important.
On unfettered access, my noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about certificates. They are intended to be tough. The VMD has considerable expertise on a UK national basis and previously as part of the EU regulatory network.
I should say to the noble Baronesses that all current EU maximum residue levels will continue to apply in the UK from the end of the transition period. In Great Britain, these will be set out in the maximum residue limits register. The amendments do not change the scientific methodology used to establish individual limits. This will remain unchanged.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about resources. We have been working in the department to ensure that there are sufficient resources, in all respects, on the very important issue of vets. We have been working to ensure that there are sufficient numbers. We have also introduced a new certification support officer to help carry out administrative aspects of that process.
I am conscious that I have many more questions to answer, some of which are technical. I hope the noble Baronesses will understand that I have made a very careful note of all the detailed points that have been made and I will ensure that they are attended to in the form of a letter. In the meantime, I beg to move.