1 Introduction |
Background to this inquiry
1. EU Council Directive 1999/74/EC on the Welfare
of Laying Hens is due to come into force on 1 January 2012.
Under the Directive the use of conventional cages (commonly referred
to as 'battery cages') for laying hens will be prohibited in the
EU as will the marketing of eggs from hens housed in such cages.
The Committee decided to conduct a short inquiry into implementation
of the Directive following concerns that some Member States would
not be able to implement the ban in time. UK egg producers fear
imports of non-compliant eggs from other Member States following
the 1 January 2012 would put this country's egg producers at an
unfair commercial disadvantage.
2. We announced terms of reference for our inquiry,
encompassing English egg production, on 27 January 2011. On 7
February we announced that the scope of the inquiry had been extended
to encompass egg producers across the whole of the UK. Twenty
two organisations and individuals submitted written evidence to
the inquiry; in addition the European Commission provided us with
data on the state of compliance across the European Union. We
took oral evidence from representatives of the British Egg Industry
Council (BEIC), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals (RSPCA), the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Noble
Foods Ltd and from officials of the Directorate General Health
and Consumer Policy of the European Commission and from the Minister
for Agriculture and Food, Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra). We would like to thank those who gave oral
evidence as well as those who submitted written evidence to the
The Welfare of Laying Hens Directive
3. In 1999 Member States agreed to the Welfare of
Laying Hens Directive, which was prompted by the European Commission's
Scientific Veterinary Committee report which condemned conventional
cages because of their "inherent severe disadvantages for
the welfare of hens".
The Directive has been incorporated into English law since 2002,
most recently in the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations
2007 (S.I 2007/2078) and in similar but separate legislation in
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Regulations specify
requirements for the keeping of hens in establishments with 350
or more laying hens, whether kept in non-cage systems, conventional
cages or enriched cages. The Regulations forbid the building or
new use of conventional systems from October 2007, and all use
of such systems from January 2012, and require premises to register
so that eggs can be traced.
4. Egg production in the UK is broadly divided into
cage and non cage production systems. Non-cage systems include:
- Free range, including organic,
in which eggs are produced by hens which have continuous daytime
access to runs which are mainly covered with vegetation. They
can be kept in multi-tier or single tier housing. In 2010, in
the UK, 45% of the eggs produced were free range.
- Barn eggs, in which hens are able to move freely
around an indoor enclosure. These account for 5% of eggs sold
in the UK.
Cage systems, accounting for about 50% of UK commercial
egg production, include:
- Conventional battery cages,
which contain around five birds with a minimum of 550cm²
space, less than the size of a sheet of A4 paper, per bird. In
the UK in December 2010, these accounted for 28% of all laying
- New enriched cages, which provide at least 750cm²
per bird and a minimum height of 45 cm along with a nest, perching
space and a scratching area. In the UK in December 2010, these
accounted for 21% of all laying hens.
The BEIC predict that the market split for 2012 will
be 50% free range, 43% cage, 4% barn and 3% organic.
5. The Directive is intended to improve the welfare
of laying hens. According to Defra "There is clear evidence
that conventional cages are detrimental to hen welfare and therefore
the decision to ban them by 2012 represents a significant welfare
advance across the European Union".
The RSPCA described the Directive as "...one of the first
multi-country agreements in the world to phase out a method of
production due to animal welfare concerns".
The Minister felt that, given producers' investment in new cages,
the Directive was likely to be the last major regulatory change
designed to improve the welfare of laying hens for some time.
In this inquiry we have considered how implementing the Welfare
of Laying Hens Directive would affect the UK egg production industry
rather than its merits as an instrument to improve the welfare
of laying hens.
6. In the UK around 31 million eggs are eaten per
day, which equates to an annual consumption of 182 eggs per person.
In 2010, the UK produced 9,023 million eggs representing around
80% self-sufficiency in shell eggs and egg products.
The remaining 20% are imported from other Member States, in particular
France, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. About 66% of these
eggs are imported as shell eggs for use by wholesalers, caterers
and the food industry. The remaining 33% are imported as egg products.
Egg products include liquid, powdered (dried) and frozen whole
or part eggs. They are mainly used by food processors and in food
service industries. The UK egg products market is worth approximately
£250m per year.
7. 'Lion Code' producers account for around 90%
of the UK's egg production. The Lion Code of practice is administered
by the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), all of whose members
adhere to the code. The code sets higher standards of both hygiene
and animal welfare than are currently required by UK or EU law.
Defra anticipates that from 1 January 2012 all Lion Code egg producers
will comply with the Directive and smaller producers that have
not invested in enriched cages will leave the industry by 2012.
The Government therefore expects "virtually" all UK
cage-produced eggs will be compliant following implementation
of the Directive.
8. Egg producers have had several years to prepare
for the Directive's implementation. Since the Welfare of Farmed
Animals (England) Regulations 2007 came into force, producers
have been forbidden from the building or new use of conventional
systems. The BEIC estimate the capital investment by British producers
in erecting new enriched cage units to comply with the Directive
to be around £400 millionor £25 per hen.
In addition to the capital costs, the production costs for enriched
cages are estimated to be 8% higher compared to a conventional
cage. According to
the NFU the level of investment required to comply with the Directive
has "... led to accelerated consolidation of the industry,
with fewer producers and a much smaller independent egg industry".
Defra estimates that about 80% of all total UK egg production
goes through just 20% of companies, with 60% of all eggs marketed
by the top four companies.
9. Defra expects
all UK cage egg production to be compliant with the Directive
by the 1 January 2012 deadline. While this is encouraging, the
UK's ability to argue for strict adherence to the Directive will
be undermined if this country is not fully compliant. We therefore
seek Defra's assurance that UK egg production is on course to
be fully compliant by 1 January 2012. We expect Defra to confirm
when the UK achieves full compliance with the Directive. We further
recommend that Defra publish its assessment of the total capital
cost to UK producers of implementing the Directive.
UK egg industry concerns
10. The industry's principal concern is that after
1 January 2012 there will be unfair competition from non-compliant
producers elsewhere in the European Union. The NFU told us that:
English egg producers have serious concerns that
if the Directive is not uniformly implemented across the EU, after
investing heavily in conversion to enriched cages to meet the
requirements of the Directive, they will be put at a commercial
disadvantage by imported non-compliant eggs and egg products from
Similar arguments were made by Scottish Egg Producer
Retailers Association and NFU Cymru.
Mark Williams, Chief Executive of the BEIC described the investment
as the 'crux of the argument' and told us "That investment
made by the UK industry must be protected from what we believe
will be non compliant production coming out of Europe in just
under 12 months' time".
11. Compassion in World Farming, however, argued
that producers may be less vulnerable to non-compliant imports
because of the "strong support from UK food businesses many
of which no longer sell or use battery eggs".
CWF's argument has some
weight in relation to the retail sector. Waitrose (shell eggs
and own label food products), the Co-op (shell eggs), Marks and
Spencer (shell eggs and food products) and Morrisons (own label
shell eggs) have already stopped selling cage eggs or have indicated
their intention to do so in the near future. Sainsbury's no longer
sell cage eggs and have stated that they will move to using eggs
from non-cage systems in their own label food products by 2012.
However, 49% of egg production in the UK uses cage systems and
the two largest retailers, Tesco and ASDA, have both stated that
they intend to continue to offer cage eggs for sale in their stores
to satisfy the demands of their diverse consumer base.
In addition, more than 1,800 million eggs were bought by food
processors last year.
12. The Government shares the UK egg producers' concerns.
The memorandum from the department told us that:
The UK government wishes to protect compliant UK
producers from any competitive disadvantage of illegal production
in other Member States or indeed the UK. Such behaviour would
affect economic stability and fairness within the sector. Simply
relying on infraction proceedings against non-compliant Member
States will not be enough to deal with the commercially negative
impact that the non-compliance would cause. Additional measures
will need to be put in place to prevent market disturbance.
In oral evidence the Minister told us the Government
stood "four-square with those producers in this country who
have made the investment", and added "We have been pressing
the Commission for some months now to prepare for action, because
it has been abundantly clear to me and to, indeed, the industry
that a number of countries were not making the progress that was
We share the industry's concern that other Member States have
made insufficient progress in converting to enriched cages to
be able to comply with the 1 January 2012 deadline for implementation
of the Directive. That being the case there is a real risk that
UK producers, who have spent around £400 million on new infrastructure
and have on-going higher production costs, will be competing with
imported shell eggs and egg products from non-compliant producers
who have lower capital and production costs. We
conclude that the UK cage egg production industry will be at a
competitive disadvantage after implementation of the Directive
if non-compliant cage egg producers in other Member States are
able to export shell eggs and egg products.
Implementation of the Directive
Data provided to the Commission
13. In preparation for the implementation of the
Directive the European Commission has been collecting and collating
data from Member States. The Commission provided us with data
which sets out the number of laying hens and production sites
by production method as at 31 December 2010, 1 April 2011 and
Member States' forecasts for 31 December 2011. In Germany, conventional
cages have been banned since 1 January 2010 and enriched cages
will be banned from 1 January 2012 (so production will be entirely
in non-cage systems). The use of conventional cages is also already
banned in Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands. Member States'
own forecasts of the position at 1 January 2012 show that Belgium,
Cyprus, Poland, Portugal Romania and Slovakia do not expect to
be in compliance by the deadline. In addition, Hungary, Italy,
Latvia and Malta have indicated that the status will not be known;
while France, Greece and Spain have provided no data to the Commission.
In total around one third of production throughout the EU is likely
to remain non-compliant by the 1 January 2012 deadline.
14. Ms Joanna Darmanin, Head of Cabinet, Directorate
General Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) described the data provided
to the Commission as "far from optimal".
She told us that "The data we have are patchy, and there
are some data that are reliable, but others where we have, I have
to say, gaps, or where the data that we have requested are not
She explained that the Commission had requested data from those
Member States that had failed provide the required information;
and that Member States had been asked for an action plan to show
how they intended to comply with the legislation by the 1 January
Member States have failed to provide the data requested by the
Commission. The Commission needs to know the likely level of compliance
in advance of the 1 January 2012 deadline in order to gauge the
scale of enforcement activity required. The Commission will also
need an accurate assessment of the level of compliance across
Member States at 1 January 2012 so that it can implement the necessary
enforcement action. We recommend Defra press both the Commission
and individual Member States to provide the necessary data that
will enable the Directive's effectiveness to be assessed.
16. The figures have many omissions but the Commission
has no power to penalise those Member States that had failed to
provide the required data.
We considered whether the
Commission has sufficient powers to require Member States to provide
information relating to compliance with European Union legislation.
We do not consider it appropriate to give the Commission the power
to impose penalties on Member States.
17. As a general
principle, the Commission should ensure that Member States fully
understand their reporting and monitoring responsibilities in
relation to existing or forthcoming European regulation.
18. Egg-laying hens have a productive lifespan of
approximately 13 months. Assuming that a producer would not sacrifice
a proportion of that productive lifespan, for a flock to be fully
compliant by the deadline birds would need to have been housed
in compliant cages from the end of 2010. Mr Williams told us:
if people are putting hens in conventional cages
today across Europe, I would suggest that they are taking a brave
step and assuming they will get the return on that pullet before
31 December, or they intend to run them beyond. I suggest
that the latter is probably more in tune with that.
19. Ms Darmanin confirmed her understanding that
the Directive required all hens at 1 January 2012 to be in compliant
enriched cages. We
recommend that the Commission makes clear that Member States should
be advising their egg producers that no new hens should be being
placed into non-enriched cages now.
PROBABILITY OF COMPLIANCE
20. The Government considers that Member States and
their egg producers have had sufficient time to prepare for the
Directive. The Minister told us that:
The industry has had plenty of time to prepare for
it, and indeed the new Member States who have joined the EU since
then knew what they were joining and the rules they were going
to have to achieve, so I am not sure that anybody can complain
they have not had sufficient notice.
21. Mr Williams told us that "certain Member
States that physically cannot comply now from the very fact that
equipment must be ordered; erection gangs must be contracted;
and then physical erection has to take place".
The Minister agreed that the manufacturers of compliant cages
did not now have the capacity to deliver and install cages so
that every country could be compliant by the deadline.
22. Giles Clifton, Head of Public Affairs, BEIC noted,
however, that when the Directive was initially adopted the Commission
had said that it would provide a definitive date for implementation
by 1 January 2005, but did not, in fact, produce that definitive
answer until 8 January 2008 which had put time pressure on producers.
Mr Williams noted that the low market demand for higher welfare
eggs in some Member States had been a commercial disincentive
for early adoption for producers facing an 8% higher cost of production
in enriched cages.
23. Mr Williams' comments about consumers' views
on higher welfare eggs echo the findings of the 2007 Eurobarometer
report Attitudes of EU citizens towards Animal Welfare.
The report found that animal welfare was a slightly greater concern
in the countries of the EU15 than in the ten new Member States
and that lower importance was attached to the subject in Hungary,
Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Spain.
24. The Commission's own evidence makes clear that
several countries will not have complied by the deadline and yet
it appears to believe that full implementation of the Directive
by the 1 January deadline is feasible.
Defra has pressed the Commission to prepare for non-compliance.
The Minister recounted a discussion with the Commissioner, who
had said "We are not prepared to contemplate that people
will not have converted. We think they all will"; a position
which the Minister described as "unwise".
He considered that the Commission were "now much more aware
that there is going to be a problem".
Ms Darmanin summed up the Commission's strategy: she told us that
once the data was collected it would reveal the extent of the
problem and the potential noncompliance, and that "it
is at that point that obviously we will start to kick it into
high gear and have a strategy on how to deal with it".
 She added:
... we have to know exactly what the situation is
going to look like on 1 January 2012 before we decide how to tackle
it. I think it would be foolish of us to say, "Okay, we are
going to give you a safeguard clause; you can ban this and ban
that." I think we really need to see, number one, the extent
of the problemwhether it is limited to one or two Member
States, or whether it is a more generic problem across the Member
States. I think all those issues we really do have to factor into
any decision that we are going to take. 
25. The Commission has said that the Directive must
be implemented to the letter but does not appear to have considered
how it will mitigate the impact for egg producers and consumers.
If, on 1 January 2012, the Directive were to be fully complied
with, the 30% of EU egg production that is expected to be non-compliant
would have to be taken off the market and destroyed, creating
a sudden catastrophic shortfall in eggs across the EU. Contemplating
this scenario, the BEIC concluded:
We very much doubt this will be allowed to happen
[...] The commercial reality is that such eggs would continue
to be produced and enter the marketplace unless certain measures
are put in place.
26. The Commission's own data confirm that a significant
proportion of cage egg production across the European Union will
not comply with the Directive by the deadline. At that point,
assuming the Commission does not insist on the destruction of
millions of eggs, the choice is between allowing non-compliant
eggs to be traded, negating the whole purpose of the Directive;
or instituting enforcement action that will put pressure on Member
States and producers to become compliant. Given these facts it
is mystifying that Commission feels able to wait until after the
deadline has passed before kicking into "high gear"
and producing a strategy.
27. The Commission's
forecasts show clearly that the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive
will not be complied with across the entire European Union from
1 January 2012. The Commission has had the evidence to show this
for some time. We are concerned by the Commission's evident complacency:
it does not appear to recognise the potential damage that will
be done to compliant egg producers.
28. The Commission
has not developed a plan to manage the anticipated non-compliance.
If such a plan were already developed and publicised it would
have had the additional benefit of acting as a deterrent to non-compliance.
29. On 19 January 2011, in response to pressure from
Member States and egg producers, the Commission held a stakeholder
meeting to discuss the implementation of the ban.
The Commission is considering the 14 enforcement options proposed
by Member States and stakeholders at that meeting, including:
- Derogation from implementing
directive for a period of time.
- New code '4' to distinguish illegal eggs.
- Intra-community trade ban.
- Official list of non-compliant producers.
- Increased inspection regime.
30. Several Member States have requested additional
time to implement the Directive. To date those requests have been
refused. Ms Darmanin
told us that "at last count", Poland, Romania and Bulgaria
had called for an extension of the deadline, but those requests
had been "immediately shot down by the rest of the Council
and the Commission saying that is simply not an option that is
on the table".
Referring to that discussion, the Secretary of State told the
House that she had told the Council "any delay would be grossly
unfair to egg producers in the UK and other Member States that
have made significant investments to adapt and enrich cages".
The European Parliament has also called on the Commission to maintain
the requirement for the ban to come into force on 1 January 2012
and to oppose strongly any attempts by Member States to secure
a deferral of that deadline.
31. The UK egg production industry is concerned that,
despite current opposition to any derogation within the Commission
and Council, as the deadline approaches the economic and practical
reality will force some form of concession to non-compliant Member
States. The BEIC "... anticipate that producers in some other
Member States may be given permission at the last minute to extend
the deadline and that cheap, lower welfare eggs, especially from
Southern and Eastern Member States could be available in the UK".
Defra must resist the granting
of a derogation from the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive to any
Member States as strongly as possible.
32. Eggs are marked with a production indicator which
allows enforcement authorities and the general public to easily
identify the production method under which the egg was produced.
The BEIC recommended that, if after 1 January 2012, eggs from
non-compliant cages were still being marketed they should be marked
in a way that differentiated them from eggs produced under other
... eggs from an enriched cage would be marked with
a No.3 and eggs from a conventional cage would be required to
be marked with a No.4 or other mark, if more time should be provided
to phase out the use of conventional cages.
The UK Egg Producers Association Ltd (UKEP) also
argued for an additional code number to differentiate between
eggs coming from enriched or conventional cages.
33. Mr Jorêt, Technical Director of Noble Foods
Ltd and Deputy Chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, questioned
whether such an approach would work. He thought producers of illegal
eggs "will also mark them illegally anyway, so whether or
not we have the number they will probably use it wrongly".
The European Commission opposes the introduction of an additional
production indicator for non-compliant, conventional cage produced
eggs after 1 January 2012 as this would "give a legal status
to something that is de facto illegal".
Defra agreed with the position taken by the Commission. The Minister
... it seems odd to me that you should be suggesting
you label something that is unlawful. Are people willingly going
to put a label on an egg that says "This is an unlawful egg"?
[...] I think we should say there should only be eggs from enriched
cages on the market, and we have to move towards making sure that
the others do not come on to the international European market,
understand the industry's wish to see non-compliant eggs differentiated
by an additional code. However, we are persuaded by the argument
put forward by the Government and the Commission that requiring
producers to mark an egg as unlawful would be illogical and probably
35. The Commission is considering "limited circulation
of illegal eggs within Member States of production", in other
words an intra-community trade ban on non-compliant eggs. Such
a ban would mean that eggs from hens housed in conventional cages
could only be marketed in their Member State of production.
The Minister told us that the UK Government, the devolved administrations
and other Member States were pressing the Commission for an intra-community
ban, which he considered would be the "best way of ensuring
that our producers, and indeed those in other countries who have
made the investment, are not undercut".
The Minister advocated a complete ban on eggs from non-compliant
Member States; he thought that either a ban on individual producers,
or a ban that allowed a Member State only to export egg from
enriched cages would not apply pressure on Member States to enforce
36. Compassion in World Farming (CWF) expressed concern
about an intra-community ban because it could undermine the ban
on conventional cages. CWF argued that:
Legalising the sale of battery eggs would result
in farmers in countries such as Spain having little incentive
to move away from battery cages [... and the UK] may find other
Member States pressing for a lengthy period during which illegally
produced battery eggs can continue to be sold.
37. Mr Williams described those egg products as the
"battleground" once the Directive comes into force.
According to the BEIC one third of the UK's egg imports are in
the form of egg products, such as powdered or liquid egg. In order
for a intra-community ban to be effective it would be necessary
to identify shell eggs from non-compliant Member States; powdered
and liquid egg products from the same source; and any number of
products containing some ingredient derived from non-compliant
38. The difficulties of tracing egg products was
highlighted in several submissions. UKEP state that:
Whilst manufacturers may ask egg product suppliers
if the product is from compliant cages, what tangible guarantees
can be given?
A significant amount of egg product used in the UK
is in the form of powder. As no powder is produced in the UK,
all this will be imported, possibly from non-compliant cages in
the EU, and certainly from third countries.
Roy Kerr, an egg producer argued:
It is absolutely essential to insist on full traceability
on liquid egg, and country of origin on product, as retail organisations
are increasingly stating that they use only free-range eggs in
their products, this is impossible to police with liquid egg and
product being sourced from other countries on a cost basis.
39. Our witnesses all agreed that traceability of
egg products was a major problem. Mr Bowles argued that "retailers,
processors or producers, particularly in the food industry sector",
had an important role to play in ensuring they were only importing
compliant eggs. Mr
Jorêt agreed that products with eggs as an ingredient were
a particular concern; and he added that many consumers were unaware
of the range of products that contain eggs.
Mr Opie argued that large retailers, who stock a large percentage
of own brand products, would be able to control traceability of
legal eggs through their supply chains.
He was not able to offer a satisfactory answer to how retailers
would respond to concerns about egg products contained in imported
branded itemssaying instead that retailers would prefer
consumers bought own-brand alternatives.
40. The Government and industry are concerned that
an intra-community ban should include egg products as well as
shell eggs. The Secretary of State told the House that it was
important to establish "the provenance of liquid-egg and
dried-egg products", and confirmed that the Commission was
considering the issue.
The Minister agreed that a ban should include shell eggs and egg
products. He acknowledged that a ban should include products containing
eggs but was unable to offer a mechanism to achieve this.
41. Ms Darmanin told us that the Commission's legal
services was assessing whether an "intra-community ban for
those egg products that will be illegal by the time of the entry
into force on 1 January", was a "feasible and a proportionate
confirmed that the question of a ban on non-compliant eggs was
both a legal question and a policy judgement.
Dr Vassallo, Member of Cabinet, European Commission Directorate
General Health and Consumer Policy, appeared to suggest that the
Commission was not fully committed to introducing a ban. He argued
that the lack of clarity around whether an intra-community ban
was to be introduced was "a form of pressure on producers
who are not yet compliant, in the sense that a total ban of illegal
eggs is a risk to somebody who is producing 5 million eggs a daya
risk he will not take". More tellingly he told us that as
"... at the end of the day, we have minimal non compliance,
why go all that way".
42. The Commission's goal must be that all egg producers
comply with the Directive. The purpose of an intra-community trade
ban should therefore be to protect compliant producers across
the EU, while providing an incentive to producers to quickly convert
to enriched cages. Producers who have invested in enriched cages
should not be penalised. An intra-community ban should therefore
cover only non-compliant eggs, whether or not other producers
in the same Member State are non-compliant.
43. The Commission has the option of initiating infraction
proceedings against Member States which have non-compliant producers.
Infraction proceedings would provide an incentive for national
Governments to put pressure on their non-compliant producers.
44. We support
the calls for an intra-community trade ban on the export of shell
eggs and egg products from non-compliant egg producers. We recommend
that the Government press the Commission to confirm that such
a ban would be permissible under the European law.
45. We recommend
that Defra press the Commission to initiate infraction proceedings
against Member States whose caged egg producers are non-compliant
once the Directive comes into force.
46. We recognise
that the obstacles to establishing a trade ban that encompassed
all products that contained egg derived ingredients produced in
non-compliant cages may well be insurmountable.
47. We recommend
that Defra investigate establishing a voluntary approach under
which retailers and food manufactures would undertake stringent
traceability tests to ensure that they are not responsible for
bringing products containing non-compliant egg products into the
UK. We further recommend that Defra publish a list of those retailers
and food manufacturers that have signed up to the voluntary approach.
48. On 16 June, Defra published the Government buying
standards for food and catering services. In March the Minister
confirmed that it:
... will be mandatory on central Government, subject
to no overall increase in cost, and those mandatory standards
will require that all food purchased by central Government and
its Departments should be produced to, at minimum, the standards
of production required of our producers or their equivalents from
The Mandatory Standards require all shell eggs are
"sourced from systems that do not use conventional cages.
If from a caged system, enriched cages are used".
Under the Best Practice standards "All eggs, including liquid
and powdered eggs, are sourced from systems that do not use conventional
cages. If from a caged system, enriched cages are used".
that the Government buying standards should be amended to make
clear that after 1 January 2012 it will be mandatory that no products
containing egg products from non-compliant eggs are purchased.
49. Enforcement of the legislation is carried out
by national inspection agencies. However, the Commission has to
be assured that the competent authority in each Member State is
going to enforce compliance. There is a degree of trust that each
Member State will ensure compliance within its own country.
Two options put forward at the stakeholder meeting were increased
inspection by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO)
or increased Competent Authority inspection regime. The Commission
witnesses explained that the Commission's Food and Veterinary
Office (FVO) audits Member States' inspection systems and that
once the Directive was in force they would inspect "different
Member States to ensure that Member States are actually doing
what they have told us they were supposed to be doing".
50. Mr Williams, chief executive of the BEIC, told
us that the FVO representative at the February stakeholder meeting
had said the FVO needed "more teeth to ensure enforcement
takes place that is proportionate to the misdemeanour".
He added that the current levels of fines imposed through the
FVO were not sufficient to act as a deterrent.
The FVO inspects the enforcement in each Member State: the NFU
argued that while in theory each Member State would ensure proper
implementation of the legislation:
... in practice this relies on the Competent Authority
effectively enforcing legislation and we would argue that those
Member States which have significant numbers of non-compliant
producers have already demonstrated they cannot be relied upon
to robustly enforce the directive in a timely manner.
51. Anecdotal evidence suggests the inspection regime
in the past has varied from one Member State to anotherthe
Scottish Egg Producer Retailers Association refers to a country
with a flock population "equal to the UK" with only
one inspector. UK
egg producers are therefore concerned that enforcement will be
weak in some countries and that by the time non-compliance has
been discovered, reported and acted upon, they will have suffered
irreparable commercial damage. The Minister made clear that he
considered enforcement of the Directive to be a matter for the
Commission. He explained
that in the UK producers would be inspected to ensure compliance
and agreed that:
... there is a suspicion, shall we say, that with
previous regulations, some countries have signed up to them and
not really paid too much heed to implementation, and that has
to be a worry, but I am afraid it is not for us to do those inspections:
it is for the FVO from the European Commission to make sure that
other countries keep to it.
Defra's memorandum adds that "it is unlikely
that relying on [enforcement] will be enough to deal with the
commercially negative impact that non-compliance would cause".
Commission has a responsibility to ensure enforcement of the Directive.
We therefore urge Defra to press the Commission to bolster the
powers and resources of the Food and Veterinary Office.
53. We further
recommend that Defra press the Commission and Member States to
have robust inspection regimes in place, that swift action be
taken if non-compliance is uncovered, and that Member State's
fine producers for non-compliance at a level that will act as
54. The list of enforcement options includes two
that rely on Member States providing information to the Commission
or other Member States: an official list of non-compliant producers;
and implementation plans and flock data to be freely available
to all. Given the inability of several Member States to provide
the data requested to date it seems unduly optimistic to assume
that the data required for these two options would be provided.
55. We conclude
that lists of non-compliant producers would only be of benefit
if officers were available at ports of entry to check imported
eggs against the list. Such an approach would be costly. Given
the current poor state of the data available to the Commission
we doubt any enforcement method relying on comprehensive accurate
data will be effective.
UK unilateral action
56. The Government has said it may take unilateral
action. However, the Minister was not prepared to discuss what
that action might be, or whether the Government would pursue a
unilateral UK ban on non-compliant eggs.
We understand that the Government may be unwilling to 'show its
hand'. However, we would not wish the promise of the UK clipping
the wings of non-compliant egg producers from elsewhere giving
the UK industry misplaced confidence. We
recommend that Defra confirm whether it is still exploring unilateral
action and that the devolved administrations support that approach.
We recommend that Defra investigate the potential for putting
in place a UK ban on shell eggs and egg products from Member States
with non-compliant production.
57. The UK not only imports eggs and egg products
from the EU but also from outside the Union. A ban on eggs or
egg products that do not comply with the animal welfare standards
required in the EU is attractive. However, the Minister confirmed
that there would be very high risk of being challenged under the
World Trade Agreement if an attempt were made to ban eggs or egg
products imported from third countries produced in cage systems
below the welfare standards specified in the Directive.
Under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures,
governments can regulate trade in agri-food products only on food
safety, plant and animal health grounds and as long as these do
not act as disguised trade barriers.
Given the history of international trade negotiations it is unlikely
that any changes reflecting animal welfare standards would be
successful in the medium term. However, the inclusion of animal
welfare standards in future rounds of WTO negotiation should remain
a long-term goal of the Government. As
we argued in our report on Common Agricultural Policy after 2013;
it is in the interests of fairer trade in the long-term that the
EU should argue more strongly for recognition of standards of
production (for example animal welfare, use of water, greenhouse
gas emissions) within international trade agreements.
Welfare of Laying Hens Directive will be the first piece of EU
legislation intended to improve animal welfare to be implemented.
As such the Commission's ability to enforce this Directive will
be a test of the European Union's resolve to improve standards
of animal welfare. We have seen little evidence that the Commission
appreciates the serious risks associated with implementation of
this Directive. First, the Commission has been insufficiently
robust in securing the data required to assess the current trajectory
to compliance. Second, the Commission has also shown little enthusiasm
for establishing tough enforcement measures in the face of certain
non-compliance by several Member States. Third, the Commission
appears to have failed to grasp the very serious consequences
for compliant egg producers if full implementation of the Directive
is not vigorously pursued. We therefore recommend that Defra work
with other concerned Member States to make the case for swift
action by the Commission.
1 Ev 36,43 Back
Ev 36 Back
Report of the Scientific Veterinary Committee, Animal Welfare
Section on the Welfare of Laying Hens, Brussels 30 October 1996,
p 109. Back
HoC Library note SN/SC/1367 para 2.1 Back
Ev 44 Back
Ev 43 Back
Ev 41 Back
Q 216 Back
See http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/foodfarm/food/eggs/ Back
Ev 43 Back
Ev 41 Back
Q 118 Back
Q 197, see Ev 43 Back
Ev 36, see Q 4, Ev w14 [Note: references to 'Ev wXX' are references
to written evidence published in the volume of additional written
evidence published on the Committee's website] Back
Ev w14 Back
Ev w14 Back
Ev 43 Back
Ev w15 Back
Ev w13, 14, 18, 19 Back
Q 4 Back
Ev w1,2 Back
Ev 44 Back
Ev 43 Back
Q 196 Back
See Ev 36, 43-44 Back
Q 121 Back
Q 122 Back
Q 121 Back
Q 128 Back
Q 61 Back
Q 179 Back
Q 202 Back
Q 14 Back
Q 230 Back
Q 15 Back
Qq 15, 16 Back
European Commission press release, 20 January 2011, http://europa.eu/rapid/middayExpressAction.do?date=21/01/2011&direction=0&guiLanguage=en Back
Q 196 Back
Q 196 Back
Q 177 Back
Q 177 Back
Ev 36 Back
Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on the Implementation of Council Directive
1999/74/EC, on the Protection of Laying Hens, held in Brussels
on 19 January 2011 Back
Qq 150-151 Back
Q 152 Back
HC Deb, 17 March 2011, col 462 Back
Ev w1 Back
Ev 36 Back
Ev 37 Back
Ev w16 Back
Q 109 Back
Q 189 Back
Q 231 Back
Ev 37, Q 13 Back
Qq 199, 206, 233, 236 Back
Qq 232-234 Back
Ev w2 Back
Q 5 Back
Ev w16 Back
Ev w11 Back
Q 76 Back
Qq 95, 90, Andrew Jorêt Back
Q 110 Back
Q 111 Back
HC Deb 17 March 2011, col 462 Back
Q 200 Back
Q 123 Back
Qq 187-188 Back
Q 188 Back
Q 220 Back
Q 234 Back
Qq 183-186 Back
Q 48 Back
Q 17 Back
Ev w15 Back
Ev w14 Back
Q 230 Back
Q 207 Back
Ev 43 Back
Qq 199, 225, 237 Back
Q 225 Back
The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary
Measures, www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/sps_e/spsagr_e.htm Back