Documents considered by the Committee on 7 February 2018 Contents

1EU Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Action Plan

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Health Committee and of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Document details

Communication from the Commission—A European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance

Legal base

Department

Health

Document Number

(38929), 11128/17 + ADD 1, COM(17) 339

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

1.1The excessive or inappropriate use of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, has caused bacteria to become increasingly resistant to those antimicrobials to which they were previously susceptible. This is known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and is recognised as a challenge requiring action nationally, regionally and globally.

1.2The EU’s new AMR Action Plan is based on the One Health approach, which takes into account both human and animal health as well as the environment. The Action Plan aims to: make the EU a best practice region; boost research, development and innovation; and intensify EU efforts worldwide to shape the global agenda on AMR.

1.3At its meeting of 29 November 2017, the Committee raised a number of Brexit-related issues, to which the Minister (Lord O’Shaughnessy) has responded. The Minister acknowledges that the post-Brexit revision of AMR-related legislation could have implications for trade. As with any changes to regional or international standards, the UK will review EU developments and update domestic legislation where there is good evidence to do so.

1.4The Minister is confident that any AMR implications arising from exit can be minimised by:

1.5We note the Government’s confidence that the potential implications of the UK’s exit from the EU on tackling AMR can be managed and that the key areas of influence for the UK extend far beyond the EU. While we are pleased to note this confidence, the uncertainties that underpin the Minister’s response are nevertheless evident.

1.6We are concerned that the AMR challenges resulting from Brexit have not received the attention that such a critical issue requires. While it is clear that this is a global matter, and that national and EU-level work alone is insufficient, effective collaboration with the UK’s closest neighbours is—and will remain—crucial. Our interpretation of the Minister’s letter is that, in his view, EU membership has facilitated that collaboration. On the basis that the UK and EU will continue to enjoy a strong trading relationship, additional efforts will logically be required in order to at least maintain existing levels of animal and public health protection.

1.7We appreciate current uncertainties over the precise arrangements for transition. In that light, we ask for further information from the Minister, once agreement on a post-Brexit transition agreement has been concluded, on the development of plans to mitigate the risks. By then, it should be clearer what access the UK will have to existing networks and what access might be lost.

1.8We hold the Communication under scrutiny and draw this chapter to the attention of the Health Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

Communication from the Commission—A European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance: (38929), 11128/17 + ADD 1, COM(17) 339.

Background

1.9The full background to, and content of, the Communication were set out in our Report of 29 November 2017.

1.10In his original position, the Minister indicated that the proposed actions were in line with the UK AMR Strategy 2013–18 and the range of international frameworks, ambitions and commitments. The Minister noted that the new implications for domestic policy were limited to future amendments to relevant EU legislation, although the Minister judged it unlikely that such changes would be made before the UK had left the EU.

1.11At our meeting of 29 November, the Committee raised a number of issues. On the recently established AMR One Health network (consisting of government experts from the human health, animal health and environmental sectors as well as the EU scientific agencies working in the human and animal health sectors), the Committee asked:

1.12On the UK’s exit from the EU, the Committee also asked the Minister:

1.13Noting the Commission’s suggestion that concessions made to EU trading partners could be linked with compliance with specific EU AMR policy objectives., the Committee also asked for the Government’s view of that suggestion, both as an EU Member State and as a future third country in the position of seeking to be an EU trading partner.

The Minister’s letter of 9 January 2018

1.14The Minister acknowledges that the international nature of public health threats arising from infectious diseases, and particularly AMR, poses a significant risk to the security, prosperity, and health of the UK and the rest of the world. While the UK is a world leader in tackling the AMR threat, says the Minister, it can only be effectively addressed through strong and sustainable global collaboration.

1.15The Minister assures the Committee that the Department of Health—on behalf of the UK—is working with other relevant Government departments to:

“ensure the best outcomes for the health and social care system; to safeguard and support our leading food and farming and life sciences industries; and to protect the environment as we leave the EU. This includes assessing and mitigating where possible the implications of the UK leaving the EU on AMR-related policy issues.”

1.16While the UK remains an EU Member State, the Government is continuing to work collaboratively with EU colleagues. The EU AMR ‘One Health’ Network is one such way for the UK to do that. This group has so far met once on 23 February 2017 to inform the content of the EU Action Plan. Officials from the Department of Health and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were in attendance and the UK looks forward to continuing to build strong networks, share best practice, and influence EU policy at future meetings.

1.17As regards future trade policy implications, the Minister says:

“As the Committee correctly highlights, there is existing EU legislation relating to AMR (e.g. rules on AMR monitoring and use of veterinary medicine in food-producing animal products) that if revised post the UK exiting the EU will potentially have implications for trade. As with any changes to regional or international standards in relation to AMR, we keep these under review and will seek to update our own domestic legislation where there is good evidence to do so. Alignment and progress with the UK AMR Strategy and trade considerations will be key factors in these considerations. The UK is a world leader in the fight against AMR in food- producing animals and a leader in the ‘One Health’ approach. It is vital that this position is maintained.

“The same considerations and principles pertain to any AMR-related provisions that could be applied through UK trade agreements. While it is too early to speculate about what will be included in any UK trade agreements, the Environment Secretary has been clear that we will not water down our trusted standards on food safety and environmental protection in pursuit of any future trade deals.”

1.18In terms of the UK’s work globally, the Minister emphasises that the key areas for influence for the UK extend far beyond the EU:

“The United Nations and other multilateral fora, including the G20 and the G7 bring a wider range of countries and international organisations into the AMR discussion. The UK is at the forefront of AMR policy-making and is widely acknowledged to be leading the way both domestically and internationally. With the current UK AMR strategy coming to end in 2018 and work already underway to draft its successor, we have the opportunity to continue this trend and push for greater ambition across the board. Contrary to the concerns raised by the Committee about falling behind, we believe that our exit from the EU will not present any barrier to us continuing to be a global leader on addressing AMR.”

1.19In concluding remarks, the Minister expresses confidence that the UK will be able to minimise any implications that may arise from exit by:

Previous Committee Reports

Third Report HC 301–iii (2017–19), chapter 10 (29 November 2017).





9 February 2018