Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, there are two instruments in the group before you, both of which address requirements for the movement of goods subject to UK sanitary and phytosanitary controls. I will speak to each in turn.
The first is the Trade and Official Controls (Transitional Arrangements for Prior Notifications) (Amendment) Regulations 2021. This instrument delays the introduction of control measures for specific plant and animal product commodities. The EU exit regulations amended by this instrument addressed 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 or SPS controls. Those regulations allowed retained EU law to remain operable in UK legislation after the end of the transition period following our exit from the European Union. For example, they removed references in legislation to the Commission and replaced them with references to the appropriate UK authority.
Having exited the European Union, we are implementing measures to bring EU imports into the same risk-based controls regime that we apply to imports from the rest of the world. A key element of the EU exit regulations is to set out a transitional period for the introduction of these controls on EU SPS imports into Great Britain. This is a temporary pragmatic step, made necessary due to the impact of Covid-19 on all businesses delivering import, control and infrastructure services. The phased introduction of controls prioritises flow at the border and gives business and industry the necessary time to prepare for the full controls regime. It supports international trade and mitigates border disruption. Those regulations, made and brought into force in late 2020, set out phasing provisions in a number of separate instruments governing official controls, trade in animals and related products, and plant health, including provisions to introduce a first tranche of border controls for some specific plants and animal product commodities from 1 April 2021.
On 11 March 2021, the EU Exit Operations Cabinet Committee agreed that the dates for the introduction of these phased SPS border control checks should be extended while businesses are still dealing with the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, which have significantly outlasted the estimates made in the third quarter of 2020, when the instruments in question were being drafted. We are therefore now amending the original regulations to revise the planned dates for the ongoing introduction of phased controls. We must ensure that these transitional provisions are reasonable and operable during and after the protracted period in which businesses and border operations continue to be adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This phasing adjustment will enable businesses to familiarise themselves with the new SPS requirements and migrate to new IT systems. It will ensure that necessary infrastructure and processes are in place at border control points, further minimising the risk of any disruption. We will, in due course, introduce a further instrument to reset the later phases of import controls.
As a whole, these regulations will ensure that we continue to deliver robust, effective controls and checks on all food, animal and plant imports. This instrument does not introduce any policy changes, and the devolved Administrations have given their consent for these regulations to apply to the whole of Great Britain. We remain fully committed to the World Trade Organization and to our international trade obligations.
I now turn to the second instrument. The Plant Health etc. (Miscellaneous Fees) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2021 provides a fee exemption for phytosanitary certificates for exporting or re-exporting goods from England to Northern Ireland by amending certain fee regulations. These regulations set fees for delivery of plant health services in England by the Forestry Commission and Defra respectively. This includes fees for pre-export and export certification services required to comply with EU third-country entry requirements relating to plant health controlled material. All businesses that use these services are charged a fee to recover the cost of delivery.
The protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland means that Northern Ireland remains in the EU plant health regime. Therefore, all movements of regulated plants between GB and Northern Ireland must meet EU third-country requirements, including being accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. If pre-exit fees related to production of phytosanitary certificates were not amended, they would apply in full to trade in regulated plants, plant products and other objects between England and Northern Ireland. This would create additional costs to businesses when carrying out trade within the UK internal market.
Amendments are being made by this instrument to provide an exemption from the payment of fees for pre-export and export certification services where goods are moving from England to a business or private individual in Northern Ireland. The exemption also applies to movements of goods by private individuals in their passenger baggage. This SI applies to England only. Scotland has made parallel legislation and Wales plans to do so. This instrument will ensure that trade between England and Northern Ireland is not subject to additional plant health costs following the end of the transition period. The exempt costs will cover the application, examination, production and amendment of phytosanitary certificates and any associated inspections and testing that may be required in order to meet EU entry requirements.
The amendments introduced by this instrument do not include any policy changes. The instrument simply ensures that the current policy for intra-UK trade is maintained; that services for pre-export and export certification to third countries should not be an additional financial burden to businesses when moving goods within the UK internal market. These instruments ensure that we continue to deliver an effective imports system that guarantees our high standards of plant health and food and animal safety, while ensuring frictionless trading and movements. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity of speaking to these statutory instruments and to the Minister for his explanation of the regulations. I am also grateful for the easement of fees, as they were looking fairly formidable. There was a great deal of anxiety about the fees likely to be payable, particularly in a business like ours. I must declare an interest, as my family business is very much involved in the supply of flower bulbs to Northern Ireland for distribution throughout the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere. In particular, the regulated arrangements made a great deal of difference to the position of a company such as Taylors. I am sorry to speak from personal experience, but I hope that, in a way, it makes my comments more relevant—although my interest in the business is now as an elder statesman. I am not responsible for day-to-day management anymore, but I know the concern that it has cost.
These statutory instruments all change dates. The first changes the date to 31 July. I notice that it also extends the regulations on plant health until December. I wonder what the position is after that. The second statutory instrument expires on 31 December so the concession on fees, as I read it, expires on 31 December, and from then on it looks as if those fees will in fact be charged. I hope that some accommodation can be made regarding the prohibitive cost of small parcels and mail order and, in our case, after-sales service after the principal order has been delivered. I read the reports of the First Delegated Legislation Committee of the House of Commons, which met yesterday. They make for interesting reading. They certainly give a strong line on the importance of horticulture and the importance of the Northern Ireland market to British horticulture. I think noble Lords will agree that it is important that the United Kingdom has freedom of trade across all four nations. I know that this is a matter of negotiation; these concessions certainly help.
If I may, I will give an illustration of what happens to a flower bulb grown in Holland. It gets a field inspection in Holland. It gets a dry bulb inspection in Holland prior to export. It then gets a receipt dry bulb inspection in GB. Then, if it goes to Northern Ireland, it gets an export dry bulb inspection and must have a receipt dry bulb inspection in Northern Ireland. That is five inspections for one bulb. They are duplications of the same thing. A bulb is a dormant object. It is not a developing disease. It is not growing. It is being repacked in Great Britain for the purposes of distribution to retail outlets. The plant health certificate that is issued on its arrival in the UK lasts only 14 days; the packing process may take a month or two while consignments are gathered together.
It seems unnecessary bureaucracy to have to do all this. Even with some concessions as to how frequently the consignments will be inspected, it is still a considerable burden. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind and to seek ways of trying to negotiate arrangements whereby the industry does not have to have all this delay and difficulty for the genuine export of a product when previously it was sufficient for it to be sent on the basis of commercial trust from one producer to another and with a plant passport issued in the Netherlands. There is no difference to the bulbs and no difference to the care but an awful lot of increased delay and expense is involved.
Added to which, I know that the whole Northern Ireland trade business is a matter of considerable concern to the Government. I support them in their concern in this area. For example, we supply a large number of seed potatoes to Northern Ireland. At the moment, we are forbidden from sending seed potatoes from Scotland. These certified seed potatoes are inspected in Scotland and freely distributed throughout Great Britain but they are banned from Northern Ireland at the moment. I hope that it will be possible to get this matter resolved.
Only today, we had a Private Notice Question in the Chamber from my noble friend Lord Moylan concerning a cancer drug that is, as I am sure all noble Lords know, freely available in Great Britain but not available in Northern Ireland. This is a real cause for concern. If the United Kingdom is to mean anything, products that are available in one part of the United Kingdom should be available in another.
I support the regulations and am grateful for the concessions that they deliver. I would like to know whether there are time limits on those concessions. I hope that my general remarks have made it clear that there is a long way to go before we have anything like normal trading relations with our customers in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of and introduction to these two sets of regulations.
The first set relate to trade and official controls. I note that they are intended to protect biosecurity and support trade by ensuring that within Britain, and between Britain and the EU, effective official border controls continue to operate following the end of the transition period, governing imports to Britain of animals and animal products and plants and plant products, including food and other imports to the agri-food chains—collectively known as the sanitary and phytosanitary checks. This represents a failure properly to prepare for the new arrangements over all of last year and raises more questions that require detailed answers.
The important questions are these. Why are the IT systems not ready? Is the infrastructure in place at the border ports of Portsmouth et cetera? Has more construction of infrastructure to take place? Have staff been trained to undertake the new responsibilities? What discussions have taken place with the agri-food sector and the National Farmers’ Union regarding the delays? What will be the estimated costs of the damage that these delays could cause to our agri-food sector?
In actual fact, this statutory instrument postpones the date from which prior notification requirements will apply to the import of products of animal origin and prescribed types of plant and plant products from the EU into GB from 1 April to 31 July. The instrument also extends the transitional period so that phytosanitary certificates will not be required for the import of plant and plant products from the EU into GB until 31 December 2021—apparently to allow businesses more time to familiarise themselves with new information technology arrangements.
Can the Minister explain the reason for both delays? Is it due to the implementation of the IT arrangements? If this is the case, why is that? Was no preparatory work undertaken on this issue last year in advance of the TAC agreements at the end of December? Was any equality impact assessment undertaken? If so, what were the results? If no assessment was undertaken, why was that the case? Will there not be an impact on the agri-food sector? Why the lack of preparedness on the part of the Government and Defra?
I note the concerns of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee, which has written to Defra about the delays in the implementation of the IT systems. The committee was advised that there would be a phased transition to the new live systems, starting in summer 2021. Can the Minister indicate how long this phased transition period will be and whether there is an estimated date for completion?
There is also, it has been suggested, a delay in getting the BCP infrastructure ready for the new BCP checks, which Defra states should be ready in October 2021, January 2022 and March 2022. What will be the financial costs of this work and has it been budgeted for within the budget timeline for this financial year?
While recognising that these regulations are required for the operation of the trade and co-operation agreement, I fail to understand the inexplicable reasons for the delays. I fully recognise that Northern Ireland will continue to operate within the EU single market under the Northern Ireland protocol. Can the Minister confirm that there will be no detrimental impact on agriculture and the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland and its relationship with GB as a result of the delay in implementing the IT and digital requirements?
A number of weeks ago we discussed the plant health fees amendment regulations, to which the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, responded. I am pleased to say that there have been some easements. I have been contacted by the AgriSupply Coalition which stated that because of our references in that debate to its problems, there has been greater engagement by Defra with it. Defra recognised that more clarity was needed on the terms used, such as “not intended for final user”, and put out much more information. It now means seed being sown to produce a crop that will be marketed, such as a crop of OSR. This step by Defra is welcome in removing the higher fee from seed for trials in response to industry concerns.
Notwithstanding that, the industry remains vigilant about any potential divergence between all parts of the UK on the matter of seeds and plant health. Many companies located in or involved in sales around all parts of the UK remain nervous about this. This is very relevant to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, so I would welcome assurances from the Minister that the area of divergence is being managed, and managed in the interests of those in the agri-food sector and the AgriSupply Coalition, which helps to supply and keep fuelled our local agricultural industry throughout the UK.
I support these statutory instruments and their two specifications. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, and I echo many of the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who speaks with such authority on these issues. I am grateful to the Minister for setting out so clearly the content of the two instruments before us. I would like to put a number of questions to him, if I may.
In regard to the plant health miscellaneous fees regulations before us, the point was made that an exemption from the payment of fees is being made but, as we understand it, this is only for a period of time. However, my noble friend Lord Goldsmith said that these regulations apply only to England and that there will be separate regulations for Scotland and Wales. It would obviously be good to know that they will be applied in the same way, and that there will not be two different regimes operating. Confirmation of that would be very helpful.
I note the importance of the industry. The horticultural trade is worth more than £24 billion in GDP. It supports more than 568,000 jobs and contributes £5 billion in tax per annum, which is considerable. The agricultural supply industry, as represented by the Agricultural Industries Confederation, represents a farmgate value of more than £8 billion. This is a significant industry and a significant trade.
Particularly in the context of the second instrument before us—the Trade and Official Controls (Transitional Arrangements for Prior Notifications) (Amendment) Regulations—it would be helpful to know whether the Minister can update us on where we are in the negotiations on the recognition of the sanitary and phytosanitary provisions. I have great difficulty in understanding why we cannot introduce a system more akin to that in New Zealand, particularly when we live so physically close to our erstwhile European Union partners. It would be helpful to know what stage we are at.
Likewise, in case any issues arise, can the Minister confirm that parliamentary committees and other specialist committees are being established at this time under the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement? Many of these issues will raise concerns on both sides, and it is important that they can be identified at the earliest possible stage.
As was noted in the discussions in the House of Commons, it is a matter of concern and something to be remarked on that the Minister was completely silent on the question of the expected financial impact and the cost of applying these two sets of regulations. Given the significance and contribution of this sector to the UK economy, it is extremely important that we understand the impact at the earliest possible stage.
As my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach said, these are new fees that did not exist in the past. Given the new arrangements that we find ourselves in post Brexit, this is the first time that a producer or exporter will have to pay them—from 1 January 2022, as I understand it. It would be helpful if, in summing up this short debate, the Minister could tell us what impact he and the department expect the fees to have when they apply. Also, it seems slightly odd that, if that is the case, the same fees will apply per consignment regardless of size. That seems nonsensical and it would be helpful to have an explanation.
Extraordinarily, when we last debated these regulations, there had been no discussion or formal consultation with the agricultural supply sector. The Agricultural Industries Confederation was not contacted before the initial regulations were drafted. It is good to recognise that there is now greater engagement. I understand that there is a dialogue between Defra and the AIC, as well as with other parts of the industry, on this subject. That is obviously welcome.
However, Defra must provide more clarity, particularly on some of the terms being used. One example is the phrase “not intended for final user”. Can more information be put out at the earliest possible stage, particularly in view of the fact that we have time now before these fees come into effect on 1 January next year? What does that phrase mean? If the seed is being used to produce a crop that will be marketed, it will be important to understand that from the industry’s point of view. I understand that Defra is removing the higher fee from seed for trials in response to the concerns that have been expressed by industry. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether that is the case. I would welcome that very much indeed.
As I mentioned earlier, there is ongoing concern that if these regulations are to be implemented differently with three pieces of legislation—one for England, one for Scotland and one for Wales—there should be no divergence in their interpretation and operation between the nations of the UK on the matter of seeds and plant health. I entirely support the strong and appropriate comments made by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach about the fact that we find ourselves in this incredible position of not being able to export seed potatoes from Scotland and the rest of Great Britain to Northern Ireland. That is regrettable. If there is to be a review of the Seed Marketing Regulations 2011 next year—or even this year—it would be extremely helpful to us to have the earliest possible notification of what the implications will be.
Although I do not oppose these regulations, I obviously welcome the fact that there is now at least a dialogue between the department and the industry. I hope that the Minister will be able to take this opportunity to answer some of the concerns I have addressed this afternoon.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to these two short statutory instruments, which are closely interrelated. The first is a short SI concerned with sanitary and phytosanitary checks to ensure efficient pest and disease control, which is extremely important. Previous speakers have spoken knowledgably and from experience on this subject.
This is all about border control, yet the EM makes no mention of Northern Ireland, but deals with England, Scotland, and Wales. Given that this is extremely important, I am surprised that we are debating this only today, on 18 May. The SI came into force on 1 April, as the previous regulations ceased on 31 March. This is all very retrospective and unsatisfactory.
I am concerned that paragraph 7.5 of the Explanatory Memorandum states that although businesses could
“attempt to comply with control requirements”,
the Government do not think this is necessary and they will not be enforced. Is this safe? Are the Government, in their anxiety to assist businesses, not opening a loophole which could see the importation of diseased material?
The SI on plant health deals with the payment of fees from England to Northern Ireland. Can the Minister say whether there is a similar arrangement from Northern Ireland to the UK or whether this a one-way arrangement only?
This is a fairly straightforward SI on the face of it, and appears to be solely about the waiving of fees for pre-export and export certification services. However, I have one concern about the wording at paragraph 2.4 of the Explanatory Memorandum, which states:
“The exemption also applies to movements of goods by private individuals in their passenger baggage.”
This Minister referred to this in his opening remarks. I am by no means a frequent global traveller, but one thing I have experienced is that, if you fly out of GB to another country, taking plants and plant products, even for your private consumption on the flight, is not permitted. Given the rise in pests and pest-borne diseases, and the decimation they can bring to our plant life, it seems odd to be allowing individual travellers to carry plant products in their luggage without an exemption certificate, and likely to be a recipe for disaster. Perhaps I have misunderstood the meaning of this paragraph, and I would be grateful if the Minister can provide some clarification.
I have two other comments on this SI. First, new paragraph 2(d), which is inserted by Regulation 2, refers to
“introduction into, and movement within and out of Northern Ireland”.
There is, however, no mention of the destination after leaving Northern Ireland. Is it to be assumed that it is always going to be England, Scotland, or Wales? I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for sharing his experience with us. It has been most helpful.
Secondly, new paragraph (4B), which is inserted by Regulation 3(2)(b), states that new paragraph (4A)
“ceases to have effect at the end of 31st December 2022.”
What is proposed to happen then? Presumably fees will be introduced, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, suggested. What is the likely scale of these fees? Will this be a burden for businesses which will have benefited from a fee holiday? The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, referred to a possible increase in fees.
I am generally content with these two SIs, but there are some worrying aspects to this, and I look forward to the Minister’s concluding remarks.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to these SIs. While they are broadly technical in nature, I have a number of questions on which I would like clarification.
Dealing first with the trade and official controls SI, I accept that this debate is taking place after the SI came into effect on 31 March, but nevertheless it raises some concerns. We have dealt with a number of SIs on similar themes over the past year. Each time, we ask whether businesses will be ready to operate the new processes and whether the IT systems will be in place. On each occasion, we receive reassurances from the responding Minister, only to find that further delays in implementing the new regime are necessary.
In December, when we were dealing with an earlier SI which introduced delays, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, reassured us that a shift in introducing the new processes from 1 January to 1 April would
“allow us to maintain the highly effective sanitary and phytosanitary regime, while allowing businesses time to prepare for our new import requirements”.—[Official Report, 2/12/20; col. GC 179.]
He specifically argued that introducing the new import controls on a phased basis would give businesses—many of which had been impacted by Covid—time to adjust.
We now have a new set of deadlines before us today, and the reason given in the Explanatory Memorandum is:
“This extension will allow businesses affected by the pandemic to familiarise themselves with the new SPS compliance requirements and IT systems, and enable workable migration from current systems.”
Does the Minister accept that, despite previous reassurances, businesses were clearly being put under unreasonable pressure to set up the new compliance systems? Does he accept that trying to rush it through risked jeopardising the viability of import companies which were struggling then to understand the complexities of the administrative system set up by Defra? Can he clarify what the industry response has been to the new deadlines?
The Explanatory Memorandum states that stakeholders had not been formally consulted but it was expected that these amendments would be received positively. Since the amendments represent a further delay, this was clearly to be expected, but has anyone asked them whether they are confident they can have the new processes up and running by 31 July and 31 December respectively? Otherwise, is there not a danger that we will be back here again, with another SI making further changes to the timetable?
While on this subject, can the Minister also update us on the development of the IPAFFS IT system? This issue was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. In a letter to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, the department said that, from 1 January 2021, the system was being used for live animal and high-risk food products, and that its functionality was now being extended to include plants and plant products. Can the Minister clarify whether the new IT system now covers all animal and plant products, or is there more work still to be done? Can he also update the Committee on the development of the border control posts infrastructure? By the new deadlines contained in this SI, will there be the comprehensive biosecurity checks that should be required at all border posts? Is the Minister confident that enough staff will have been recruited and trained to staff the posts? Can he update us as to whether sufficient veterinary staff with appropriate qualifications will be in place to ensure that proper checks can take place?
We are not in a position today to oppose this SI, and we have every sympathy with businesses adversely affected by the huge bureaucratic maze that the Government seem to have created. But, as my colleague Daniel Zeichner made clear in the Commons when it considered this SI, it is also vital that we put in place robust biosecurity measures equal to those that we previously enjoyed in the EU. I hope the Minister can explain when we are likely to receive the same protections on food safety and security that we previously took for granted when we were in the EU.
Turning briefly to the second SI—on plant health miscellaneous fees—we accept that these proposals are necessary to ensure that our colleagues in Northern Ireland are not penalised by changes to export certification costs on plant and wood products. This is one small measure that highlights the difficulties that Northern Ireland businesses are having to tolerate to carry on trading, as was well illustrated by the example from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, of dry flower bulbs needing five inspection certificates. Can the Minister explain why this problem was not picked up earlier and clarify whether a comprehensive review of fees charged when goods are moving from England to Northern Ireland is now taking place? Can we expect further SIs covering different aspects of trade costs to ensure that Northern Ireland is not further disadvantaged by the new trade arrangements?
Also, paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum notes:
“Scotland and Wales plan to make parallel legislation, which will have the same effect”.
As it has been some time since this SI was laid, can the Minister provide an update on the status of the devolved legislation? As several noble Lords have said, it would be helpful if there was no divergence in application by the devolved nations, either in the timescale or the content of the provisions they are making. I look forward to his response.
I thank the noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.
As I outlined in my opening remarks, the first instrument reflects the Government’s assessment of the protracted impacts of the ongoing pandemic and our need to be pragmatic about phasing in controls on EU imports in a manner and on a timescale that can be reasonably met by trade. The second instrument ensures that the current policy for intra-UK trade is maintained without additional plant health costs for moving goods between England and Northern Ireland following the end of the transition period.
I assure the noble Lords who raised concerns about delaying checks and the new timetable that we are acting in the best interests of UK businesses in taking the decision to delay the introduction of import controls. This will give traders time to focus on getting back on their feet as the economy opens up in the summer.
When the regulations were drafted in the autumn of 2020, we were unaware how disruptive the pandemic would continue to be. These proposals are contingent on the UK proceeding with the relaxation of coronavirus measures in accordance with the broad timetable set out by the Prime Minister. If the UK faces a different scenario, we will monitor the impact very carefully. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, in particular that we are confident that there are no biosecurity risks from these delays. Current EU biosecurity standards are essentially the same as our own, and where this is not the case—for example, for certain plants—we have already delivered more robust controls, which remain in place.
The instrument before your Lordships was made under the urgency provision so that it could be laid and brought into force by 31 March, following the Cabinet committee decision of 11 March. We did not want the risk that EU import businesses would have felt obliged to comply with the control requirements originally due to come into force in April. As with many of the SPS instruments giving effect to the withdrawal Act 2018, this SI does not apply to Northern Ireland.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie and Lady Jones, asked about the readiness of IT infrastructure. Delivery remains on track for the new import and export IT systems. Since 1 January 2021, the IPAFF system has been successfully introduced for imports of live animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin into GB. We are now extending that system to imports of plants and plant products from EU and non-EU countries. Our new exports IT system is also on track, currently in beta. The next stage is phased transition to the new live systems throughout summer 2021. These timetables will allow the import and export sectors, including businesses affected by Covid, the time they need to familiarise themselves with the new services and commodity groups.
On wider infrastructure readiness, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, as of April 2021, Defra has received 41 applications for new border control points in England and Wales; 37 of them are live and we are aware of 16 applications for Scotland. The revised phasing has taken into account the concerns from ports and port authorities on preparations for checks. As we validate the plans for January 2022, we will identify any ports or authorities where there are residual concerns and ensure that a response is pragmatic, tested and can be operationalised effectively. Delaying these requirements does not reflect a change in policy; therefore, in answer to a number of noble Lords, an impact assessment or formal consultation with stakeholders was not deemed necessary.
The delay in import controls introduced by this instrument has already been communicated to the trade via meetings, newsletters and a webinar. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, these amendments have been positively received by the trade as they enable businesses to save documentary costs and goods to flow easily across the border. Also in response to the noble Baroness, to support readiness for the delivery of the new import controls on animals and animal products, Defra has provided £40 million of funding to local authorities in England to assist port health authorities with the recruitment and training of more than 500 new staff, including official veterinarians.
The delay in import controls for low-risk plants and plant goods introduced by this instrument will give EU businesses more time to prepare for these changes. EU businesses have welcomed this additional time. EU member states are aware of our new requirements and are getting ready for these changes. Ultimately, they will be responsible for preparing EU businesses to meet ongoing demand from customers in Great Britain.
Noble Lords asked questions about the challenges facing those that export regulated goods to the EU or move them to Northern Ireland. We fully acknowledge the difficulties facing those businesses, and continue to press the strong technical case for the remaining prohibitions and restrictions to be removed from GB plants and plant products.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, raised concerns about charges and the need to simplify the process of sending dormant flower bulbs to Northern Ireland. The UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive have developed practical arrangements to simplify checks and controls between GB and Northern Ireland. The requirements for moving bulbs and other plant material to Northern Ireland are set in EU plant health regulations, and we continue to discuss issues around the application of these requirements, in the context of the protocol, with the Commission.
The Movement Assistance Scheme has been developed by the Government to make it easier for traders to continue to move agri-food goods, including bulbs, from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. We will continue to monitor and review the scheme to determine how best to provide ongoing support to traders. Also in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, the UK Government have engaged and continue to engage with businesses and stakeholders on support measures; they also continue to collect feedback on what further assistance could be beneficial.
Defra continues to press the strong technical case for the remaining prohibitions and restrictions to be lifted to enable exports of the full range of GB plants and plant products to the EU and their movement to Northern Ireland. Following this process will lead to an outcome that endures over the long term. Working with industry bodies, we are seeking to ensure that this process is expedited.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, was concerned that there is a contamination risk where private individuals can bring plant and plant matter into and out of Northern Ireland with certification. The new requirements on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are consistent with the Northern Ireland protocol, and certificate requirements are the same for personal or commercial movements of plants and plant products. The Government have guaranteed unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the rest of the UK internal market, ensuring that they can continue to trade as they did before the end of the transition period. Plants will continue to move from Northern Ireland to GB under the same plant passporting system that now governs plant movements within GB. For private individuals travelling from Northern Ireland, or indeed from anywhere, our advice remains to act responsibly.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked whether the SI covers all the devolved Administrations. The answer is no. The territorial application of this instrument is England. Scotland has laid two Scottish statutory instruments to cover the equivalent measures for goods moving from Scotland to Northern Ireland, and Wales intends to lay equivalent legislation, which will enter into force later this year. The Scottish and Welsh Governments continue to commit to not diverging in ways that would cut across future frameworks where it has been agreed that they are necessary or where discussions continue.
My noble friend also asked why we do not have an SPS regime such as that in New Zealand. The sanitary and phytosanitary chapter of the trade and co-operation agreement put in place a framework, including an SPS specialised committee, that allows the UK and the EU to take informed decisions to reduce their respective SPS controls, with a commitment to avoid unnecessary barriers to trade. It is in both parties’ interest to use this framework to reduce the rate of SPS checks required, and the TCA is the starting point for our future relationship with the EU. We are open to discussions with the EU on additional steps that we can take further to reduce trade friction, but they cannot be on the basis of future alignment with EU rules, as that would compromise UK sovereignty over our own rules.
Finally, on the issue of cost, which was raised by a number of noble Lords, the actual costs to businesses will vary depending on how they organise their imports and the type of material being imported. The schedules to the statutory instrument set out the fees for individual categories of commodities. The fees methodology was agreed through consultation with the trade in 2017.
To those noble Lords who raised questions about the fees applying to moving material from GB to Northern Ireland, I can reassure them that there will be no associated fees. This is in line with the principles of unfettered market access. There is no requirement for export phytosanitary certificates to accompany qualifying Northern Ireland goods moving from Northern Ireland to GB. There will also be no import checks on QNIGs entering GB, and no additional costs to trade as a result of plant health service delivery by APHA.
I hope that noble Lords appreciate the need for these trade-supporting regulations. These two statutory instruments are critical components in our ongoing legislative process, which will together ensure that we are able to maintain a functional and effective imports regime now that the transition period has ended. I would like to thank again noble Lords for the important points raised here today. I trust the responses have been useful. I am confident that these regulations are fit for purpose and represent another marker in the Government’s commitment to providing support for business.