Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second Report


TRANSITIONAL MEASURES FOR THE PREVENTION, CONTROL AND ERADICATION OF TRANSMISSIBLE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHIES


(22515)
10196/01
COM(01) 345

Draft Council Regulation laying down transitional measures to permit the change-over to Regulation (EC) No. 999/2001 laying down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, and amending Annexes VII and XI to that Regulation.


Legal base: Article 23 of Council Regulation 999/2001
Document originated: 15 April 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 19 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 10 July 2001
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 14 September 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see footnotes below
To be discussed in Council: 19 June 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared



Background

36.1 Earlier this summer, the Council adopted Regulation (EC) No. 999/2001[87] which seeks to provide a secure legal base for Community measures against transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The background to this measure, and its contents, are set out fully in a various reports by our predecessors,[88] but essentially the Regulation relates to all animal and public health risks resulting from animal TSEs, covering the whole chain of production and the placing on the market of live animals and products of animal origin. As such, it both consolidates much of the existing legislation in this area and introduces new legislation for areas not previously covered by Community rules. In particular, many of its provisions — notably those controlling the use of animal feed, the removal of specified risk material (SRM), and the placing on the market, and import and export, of live animals and animal products — are based on the BSE classification of the Member State or third country in question. The Regulation therefore lays down the procedure and criteria necessary to carry out the evaluations of BSE status enabling applicants to be placed in the appropriate category, but, because no such decisions have been taken so far, it also provides for appropriate transitional measures to be adopted.

The current proposal

36.2 The main purpose of the current document — which was referred to the Council on 19 June 2001, after it had failed to secure a favourable opinion from the Standing Veterinary Committee — is to set out the necessary transitional arrangements, and, by analogy with those already written into Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 for specified risk material, it applies such arrangements until at least 1 January 2002, with the proviso that thereafter they shall cease to apply as soon as a country has been given a BSE classification. In the meantime, current Community legislation would continue to apply as regards the manufacture of animal products derived from ruminant material, and the placing on the market and export of live animals and products of animal origin.

36.3 The other area in Regulation (EC) No. 999/2001 for which transitional arrangements are necessary — and where somewhat different considerations apply — relates to the use of animal feed. In order to safeguard against the transmission of BSE, Commission Decision 94/381/EC[89] introduced a prohibition of the feeding to ruminant species of protein derived from mammalian tissues, subject to the proviso that, where a Member State had control systems able to distinguish ruminant from non-ruminant protein, the latter could continue to be fed to species other than ruminants. However, because it became clear that inadequate controls were creating a risk of cross-contamination, the Council agreed last December Decision 2000/766/EC[90] imposing, with certain limited exceptions, a temporary ban — between 1 January and 30 June 2001 — on the feeding of all animal proteins to farmed animals which are kept for food production.[91] Council Regulation 999/2001 would have introduced somewhat less stringent arrangements under which the prohibition would have essentially been confined to the feeding of mammalian protein to ruminants, subject to it being extended in those regions of highest risk to the feeding of animal protein to any farmed animal (and the feeding of processed animal protein to any mammal). The current proposal would now extend at least until 1 January 2002 (and thereafter until a country has been given a BSE classification) the wider ban contained in Council Decision 2000/766/EC on the feeding of all animal protein to farmed animals, previously due to expire on 30 June 2001.

36.4 In addition to these transitional measures, the proposal would also make certain amendments to Council Regulation (EC) No. 999/2001 as regards the slaughter action to be taken in a herd following a confirmed case of BSE, and the transitional measures on SRM with respect to bovine vertebral column, mechanically recovered meat, and imports from third countries. However, these simply reflect amendments made to other Community legislation since Regulation No. 999/2001 was adopted.

The Government's view

36.5 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 14 September 2001, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) says that the most substantial effect of the proposal for the UK arises from the extension of the feed controls set out in Council Decision 2000/766, and he has attached to his Explanatory Memorandum a Regulatory Impact Assessment setting out the financial implications of the measures which the UK has now taken to implement the ban. This points out that, although the UK decided not to implement certain aspects of the ban (notably those requiring existing stocks of avian meal and fishmeal to be recalled), on the grounds that their cost was disproportionate to the risks involved, the costs of even the partial implementation are "substantial", arising in particular from the need for many manufacturers either to reformulate their feed or to switch to either ruminant or non-ruminant production.

Conclusion

36.6 We understand from the Minister that, since the Council was unable to reach a qualified majority on 19 June, the proposal was subsequently adopted by the Commission on 29 June, and has now been enacted as Regulation (EC) No. 1326/2001. Given this, and the fact that the underlying aim of the proposal was to provide for transitional measures pending the full application of Council Regulation (EC) No. 999/2001, we can do little more at this stage than note the position, and clear the document. Nevertheless, the way in which this document has necessarily been handled does, of course, highlight the extreme difficulty — to which our predecessors drew attention on numerous occasions — of exercising any meaningful parliamentary scrutiny over proposals of this kind which come to the Council at short notice following the failure of the Standing Veterinary Committee to deliver a favourable opinion.



87   OJ No. L 147, 31.5.01, p.1. Back

88   (19751) 5196/99; see HC 34-xiii (1998-99), paragraph 2 (17 March 1999), HC 23-xxxi (1999-2000), paragraph 1 (29 November 2000) and HC 28-vi (2000-01), paragraph 1 (14 February 2001). Back

89   OJ No. L 172, 7.7.94, p.23. Back

90   OJ No. L 306, 7.12.00, p.32. Back

91   (21959) 14181/00; see HC 28-vi (2000-01), paragraph 13 (14 February 2001). Back


 
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