The European Scrutiny Committee has agreed
to the following Report:
RABIES: RESTRICTIONS ON
THE NON-COMMERCIAL MOVEMENT OF PET ANIMALS
Draft Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.
Amended draft Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.
|Legal base:||Articles 37 and 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
|Department:||Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letters of 23 April 2002|
|Previous consideration:||(a) HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 12 (1 November 2000) and HC 28-iv (2000-01), paragraph 4 (24 January 2001)|
(Both) HC 152-iii (2001-02), paragraph 4 (31 October 2001), HC 152-xxi (2001-02), paragraph 4 (13 March 2002) and HC 152-xxiv (2001-02), paragraph 2 (17 April 2002)
|Discussed in Council:
||22 April 2002|
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
|Committee's decision:||For debate in European Standing Committee A
1.1 Over the last 18 months or so, the Council has been
discussing Commission proposals for a Community-wide Regulation
governing the restrictions applying to pet animals to combat the
threat of rabies. These have been reported on at length on a number
of occasions by our predecessors and ourselves (see headnote above),
most recently in our Report of 17 April 2002. The main elements
of the proposals were set out in paragraphs 2.2 - 2.4 of that
Report, but the essential point has been that, in introducing
rules generally applicable across the Community, they would have
allowed special arrangements
for the UK, Ireland and Sweden on blood testing and quarantine
similar to those in the UK's own Pet Travel Scheme.
1.2 Although we and our predecessors had raised a number
of detailed points, which over time the Government had been able
to resolve satisfactorily, we were both surprised and disturbed
to be told in a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 16 April
2002 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons)
at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr
Elliot Morley) that, as a result of an initiative by the Spanish
Presidency, the Agriculture Council on 22-23 April was likely
to be asked to give political agreement to a text in which the
derogations for the UK, Ireland and Sweden would apply only for
a transitional period of five years, following which the Commission
would be asked to make proposals on further changes to apply from
1 January 2008. Consequently, in our Report of 17 April, we said
that we would like the Minister to explain the implications of
this change more fully than he had done in his Supplementary Explanatory
Memorandum. We also said that we would find it helpful to have
a clearer explanation of the significance of his statement that
"the present text does not explicitly allow the UK to continue
its treatment for ticks". Pending further information on
these two points, we were not clearing these documents, and we
said that we expected the Minister to maintain a parliamentary
scrutiny reserve when the subject was considered at the Council
on 22-23 April.
Minister's letters of 23 April 2002
1.3 In a letter of 23 April, the Minister deals with
these two points. As regards the second, he explains that the
original proposal contained a provision allowing Member States
to make a case to the Commission for applying additional guarantees
to prevent the risk of introducing diseases not covered by the
Regulation. The UK, Ireland and Sweden had pressed for the proposal
to be amended explicitly to allow the continuation of the arrangements
they already had relating to treatment for echinococcus tapeworm
and (in the case of the UK and Ireland) for ticks. However, although
the proposal as it now stands permits the three Member States
to continue (at least for a five year transitional period) those
rules already in force for echinococcus tapeworm, it does not
cover treatment for ticks, which is intended to keep out tick-borne
diseases not present in the UK. The Minister says that the Government
is seeking to have such treatment included in the proposal.
1.4 On the wider issue of the whole proposal being subject
to a five year transitional period, the Minister explains that
this has arisen in the negotiations as a result of differences
between Member States on the need for blood tests, and the time
which should elapse after such a test before an animal may move.
Also, some countries were opposed to the special arrangements
being made for the UK, Ireland and Sweden. The Commission has
therefore been asked to submit to the Council and European Parliament
before 1 February 2007, after receipt of the opinion of the Food
Safety Authority on the need to maintain the blood test, a report
on the experience gained, based on a risk evaluation. This would
be accompanied by appropriate proposals to define the regime to
be applied from 1 January 2008 for the UK, Ireland and Sweden.
There is also a separate review provision dealing with whether
tattooing should be allowed to continue as an identification measure
alongside microchipping, and whether microchips must comply with
an ISO standard.
1.5 The Minister adds that the implication of certain
provisions being applied for a transitional period is that there
may be further changes at the end of it, but that it is not possible
to anticipate at present exactly what those changes might be.
However, he also points out that the intention of the measure
is to harmonise the controls on the movement of pet animals, and
that, as this would not be achieved fully by the present proposal,
it is likely that any further changes will be in that direction.
He says that this could therefore affect some or all of the special
arrangements applying to the UK, Ireland and Sweden, including
the removal of the ability to place animals in quarantine (as
no other Member States will be able to do this), the deletion
of any requirement for blood testing, and a change in the waiting
period required after such a test.
1.6 The Minister does, however, stress that proposals
for changes are meant to be on the basis of a scientific review,
and that, if any are made, the UK will examine closely the basis
for them. He also points out that they will then have to be negotiated
by Member States and examined by the European Parliament, and
that the Council Services have stated that they expect the transitional
periods to continue until changes to them are agreed.
1.7 We subsequently received a further letter of 23 April
from the Minister, in which he said that, at the Agriculture Council
on 22 April, the Presidency had taken note of the UK's scrutiny
reserve, and had not sought political agreement on the proposal.
He adds that good progress was made on the few outstanding points,
and the continued use of the UK's treatment for ticks will now
be allowed during the proposed transitional period. The Minister
says that, when the UK is able to lift its scrutiny reserve, it
is hoped to finalise the dossier and reach a Common Position.
We understand it is envisaged that this would be done at the Council
in June, in which case there would be ample time before then to
hold the debate.
1.8 Whilst we are grateful to the Minister for this
further explanation, and indeed for all the information he has
painstakingly supplied on this proposal, his latest letter merely
confirms that, if enacted, the changes introduced by the Presidency
would to put it no higher put at risk the safeguards
which the UK, Ireland and Sweden have fought hard to achieve.
In particular, if the Commission were to come up with revised
proposals in 2007 involving any weakening of the provisions on
blood testing and quarantine, there must presumably be a strong
likelihood of these being adopted by the Council, given the existence
of qualified majority voting and the view taken by most Member
States. For that reason, we think that, before the Council is
asked to give political agreement to the proposals now on the
table, they should be debated in European Standing Committee A.
These would require animals coming into the UK from other Member
States or specified low-risk rabies third countries to have been
vaccinated against rabies and then blood tested: they will then
only be able to enter the UK six months after the blood test.
Animals from other, high risk countries will have to go into
quarantine if they come into the UK. Back