39.This instrument enables fees to be charged for plant health checks on imports into England from the EU, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Currently, such fees are charged only for checks on imports from the rest of the world. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) explains that under a phased approach, higher risk consignments of regulated plants, plant products and other commodities imported from the EU, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been subject to documentary, identity and physical checks since 1 January 2021, with such checks on the remaining regulated goods being phased in during 2021 and 2022. In order to give businesses time to adjust, the fees for documentary, identity and physical checks on the higher risk goods will be applied from 1 June 2021, while fees for identity and physical checks on the remaining regulated goods will be applied from 1 March 2022. The fees reflect full cost recovery. Defra says that Scotland and Wales are introducing similar provisions.
40.We asked the Department about the expected additional cost to business arising from these fees. Defra told us that this instrument:
“will extend the current policy of recovering the cost of plant health import inspections on regulated plants, plant products and other objects from the rest of the world to also cover inspections of similar material from EU member States, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The impacts of this instrument on businesses […] are a result of the Transition Period ending and the EU becoming a third country, rather than any change in policy. We are simply applying the existing policy, as applied to rest of the world goods, to EU goods as well. Therefore, no Impact Assessment has been prepared for this instrument.”
41.We note the rationale for this instrument. It is disappointing, however, that the Department did not provide some analysis of the expected financial impact, given that the businesses affected did not have to pay these fees in the past, and that the Department found it necessary to phase in the fees to give businesses time to adjust. We regard this as poor legislative practice and note that Defra has previously not provided financial information when this would have assisted Parliamentary scrutiny: both the Agriculture and Fisheries Bills were introduced into Parliament without Impact Assessments.
19 Regulated plants require a phytosanitary certificate for import, but do not require pre-notification.