Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fifth and Twenty-Sixth Report


 The European Scrutiny Committee has agreed to the following Report:—


COM(00) 529

Draft Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.

COM(01) 349

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[3] 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.

3   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

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