Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


Letter from Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I wrote to you in May last year[10] to respond to specific concerns raised by Sub-Committee D on this proposal. I am writing now to give you an update.

  To recap, Member States are required by Article 18 of Directive 64/432/EEC (as amended and updated by Directive 97/12/EC) to have computer databases for cattle and pigs which are fully operational from 31 December 1999. The proposal in question provides the Commission with powers to determine when national databases may be judged to be "fully operational". This would be achieved by the introduction of rules of application to cover the way that the different national computer databases operate and exchange information

  We have made some progress in Brussels with our arguments that the legal basis should be Article 43 rather than Article 100A, which was referred to in my letter of 10 May 1998 to Jimmy Hood (copy attached for ease of reference). However, discussions on the proposal have been very sporadic, and it has yet to move beyond technical level.

  The Commission has, in the meantime, sent each Member State a questionnaire to be completed when the competent authorities considers that their national database meets the minimum EU requirements. Upon receipt of the completed questionnaire the Commission will visit the Member States in question to carry out an on the spot assessment of the database. The Commission has already visited Finland, Luxembourg, Denmark and Belgium and will now formally recognise each of these datebases as being fully operational under existing powers.

  Regarding the implication of these developments for the UK, the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland has completed a questionnaire for its database and arrangements are now being made for a Commission visit to Northern Ireland. We have not yet requested a Commission visit to inspect the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) in Great Britain which was launched on 28 September1998.

  I shall continue to keep you informed of developments on this proposal.

24 April 1999

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Jeffrey Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Thank you for your letter of 24 April, which Sub-Committee D considered on 19 May. In your last letter to the Sub-Committee on this proposal, dated 10 May1998, you addressed the Sub-Committee's concern that any new Commission rules introduced under this Directive might cut across the detailed rules already developed for the British computerised Cattle Tracing System, saying that Mr Cunningham, then Agriculture Minister, had written to Mr Fischler and that officials would follow up the point when discussions began on the proposal. The paragraph concluded "I will inform the Sub-Committee of developments, as the position becomes clearer".

  Grateful as the Committee is for the information provided in the letter of 24 April, it does not seem to provide an update on the question of whether, if the Commission are given powers to introduce detailed rules for the computer databases, the British database might have to be substantially modified or rewritten, at great expense and causing considerable confusion. I would be extremely grateful for any information you are able to provide on this point.

25 May 1999

Letter from Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 25 May in which you ask whether the proposal to give the Commission powers to introduce detailed rules for Member States' cattle databases might require the GB Cattle Tracing System (CTS) to be substantially modified or re-written.

  As explained in my letter of 24 April, the proposal in 6241/98 is stalled. Instead, the Commission is using powers it already had to comment on, and request changes, to Member States' databases. These are powers under Council Regulation (EC) No. 820/97 for the Commission to recognise databases as "fully operational".

  We do not expect the Commission to have fundamental problems with the structure of the Cattle Tracing System database in Great Britain. We do not anticipate substantial modification or rewriting of the CTS structure.

  However, the Commission does feel strongly that our database should cover the whole cattle herd in Great Britain as soon as possible. At the moment, the database holds full details of all cattle registered from 28 September 1998; and all details, except for movements, of cattle registered between 1 July 1996 and 28 September 1998. Cattle born before 1 July 1996 are not on the database. Officials are considering how to bring in cattle not currently fully recorded on the database.

  I hope this is helpful.

24 June 1999

10   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 4th Report, Session 1998-99, p3. Back

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