Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Tenth Special Report


The Machinery of Government Secretariat of the Cabinet Office will carry out a study looking at the organisational arrangements for regulating legitimate trade in and tackling the illegal import of products of animal origin, non­animal origin (food), plants and plant products (including forestry products) which may pose risks to the health and life of the UK's human, animal and plant populations; as well as trade in endangered species and non­native species.

The study will also touch on the illegal import of live animals (mainly because of the presence of State Veterinary Service enforcement organisations at locations where live animals are imported, rather than concerns about existing arrangements) and live fish.

In the context of this study, 'illegal' will mean bringing animals, plants or their products into the UK, contrary to the prohibitions, restrictions or controls set out under Community law where this applies. This will not include the importation of human health threats via the non­food import of diseases, wider biological hazards or prohibited goods such as drugs.

The study will:

    i.  Explore the roles and responsibilities of the various organisations within central and     local government, with a view to identifying areas of overlap, or gaps; and

    ii. Identify options for better organising or streamlining the way the system for legal and     illegal imports works, with a particular focus on finding ways to increase co­operation between agencies.

Within this overall remit it will be important to ensure that both personal imports (typically brought in via luggage), and commercial imports are considered. It may be that separate recommendations and options are appropriate for different forms of illegal activity.

The study will need to take into account the range of EU legislation, together with any proposals that are likely to emerge from the EC.

A key principle that should underpin the work will be the need to take into account the business needs of all legitimate port and airport users (including traders and passengers). It may be that there is scope to reduce the existing regulatory burden for such traders.

The study will be taken forward by the Central Secretariat, Cabinet Office, with a small project team, and a Cabinet Office chaired steering board to ensure all departments with a policy interest are involved. It is envisaged that the study will take some 6­8 weeks to complete, and be completed during the Summer Recess, so that its findings can feed into the Government's response to the various Foot and Mouth Disease inquiries.

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Prepared 24 October 2002