Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-First Report


RABIES: RESTRICTIONS ON THE NON-COMMERCIAL MOVEMENT OF PET ANIMALS


(a)
(21634)
11596/00
COM(00) 529


Draft Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.

(b)
(22752)
12488/01
COM(01) 349


Amended draft Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.


Legal base:Article 37 and 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: SEM of 5 March 2002
Previous consideration:(a) HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 12 (1 November 2000) and HC 28-iv (2000-01), paragraph 4 (24 January 2001)
(Both) HC 152-iii (2001-02), paragraph 4 (31 October 2001)
To be discussed in Council: June 2002
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested



Background

  4.1  According to the Commission, measures need to be adopted at Community level to ensure that the animal health rules applicable to the non-commercial movement of pet animals in the Member States are consistent, but previous attempts at harmonisation have come to grief over the widely divergent ways in which the problem of rabies has been approached. However, the successful vaccination campaigns over the last decade, and the development of an alternative system of electronic identification and vaccination (backed up by a blood test), enabled the Commission to put forward in September 2000 a proposal (document (a)) for a Community-wide Regulation applicable to pet animals. Different rules would apply according to the type of animal and its country of origin, as follows.

  4.2  In the case of dogs and cats:

  • movement between Member States or from designated third countries would have to be accompanied by a veterinary certificate that the animal was identified by a clearly readable tattoo or electronic identification system, and had been given an inactivated rabies vaccine between one month and a year prior to importation. A number of third countries are designated, but the proposal appears to envisage the addition of other, as yet unspecified, countries;

  • the UK, Ireland and Sweden may also require certification that such animals have undergone a satisfactory blood test six months before entry; and, subject to the view of the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC), this last condition may also be imposed by other Member States if it is justified by the rabies situation in the exporting country;

  • however, the UK, Ireland and Sweden may waive any requirement relating to rabies for movements between each other or from the third countries listed in the proposal; and

  • animals from third countries not listed would have to meet all three conditions provided for (that is, identification, vaccination and blood test), though, where they are imported directly into the UK, Ireland or Sweden, the authorities there may require them to be subject to quarantine.

Any additional requirements applying to cats and dogs would be adopted by the SVC.

  4.3  In the case of other species listed in the Directive (spiders, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters):

  • there would be no animal health requirements in respect of movements between Member States or the third countries covered by the Directive; and

  • imports of these species from other third countries, and the certification to accompany them, would be determined by the SVC.

  4.4  In the case of all other species, namely those not specifically referred to in the Directive, the necessary requirements would be laid down by the SVC.

  4.5  Our predecessors were told that the Government believed the proposal would reduce the risk of rabies being imported into the Community from third countries, but that it had some practical concerns about the detailed provisions of the proposal. They therefore sought clarification of these, and, in their Report of 1 November 2000, they also raised a number of points of their own. Further information on these various points was provided by the Government, but, in their Report of 24 January 2001, our predecessors decided not to clear the proposal, as there were still a number of outstanding concerns.

  4.6  We then received from the Minister now responsible for this subject — the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) — an Explanatory Memorandum of 25 June 2001. This described the amendments which the European Parliament had proposed at its first reading of the proposal on 3 May 2001, but, as it was not clear which of those amendments were acceptable to the Commission, we decided to await its amended proposal before considering the matter further. That proposal is document (b), for which the Minister provided a further Explanatory Memorandum of 26 October 2001.

  4.7  However, as we noted in our Report of 31 October 2001, there still appeared to be a number of areas of uncertainty. In particular:

  • it was not clear whether an apparent lack of powers to lay down requirements for the importation from third countries of animals not currently listed in the proposal had been rectified;

  • as regards animals imported from a third Country via another Member State, the Minister had said that it was necessary for a blood test to have been carried out on a sample taken in one of the Member States at least six months previously, but it remained unclear whether a country such as the UK could still insist on quarantine;

  • the Minister had said in his earlier Explanatory Memorandum that the Commission had confirmed that the proposed Regulation would provide for animals from the candidate countries to be quarantined on arrival in the UK, but, whilst this was reassuring so far as it went, it was not evident whether, and how, this interpretation had been borne out by the actual wording of the proposal.

  4.8  We therefore said that, before we could clear the document, we would be grateful for his further comments on these three points. In particular, on the position of animals coming from the candidate countries, we would like to know whether he considered that a simple confirmation by the Commission that quarantine was required would be a sufficient safeguard against a legal challenge from an aggrieved exporter or importer.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 5 March 2002

  4.9  In his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 5 March 2002, the Minister deals with these three points in turn. First, he says that the lack of powers to lay down requirements for the importation from third countries of animals not currently listed has "not yet" been rectified, and that the UK will seek to do this at future discussions of the proposal. Secondly, he says that the present wording would not allow the UK to quarantine animals from third countries which entered the Community through another Member State, and that only dogs and cats entering the UK, Ireland and Sweden directly from certain specified countries may be subject to quarantine. However, he adds that the Government believes that a new clause (specifying that animals which enter the Community other than through the UK, Ireland and Sweden can then enter one of those three countries no earlier than six months after a satisfactory blood sample taken by a veterinarian authorised by a Member State) provides protection equivalent to six months' quarantine. Thirdly, the Minister says that, although other Member States share the UK's concern about the position of animals from candidate countries, the Commission believes that this is adequately covered by the wording on the proposal. However, the UK does not share the Commission's interpretation, and will seek clarification.

Conclusion

  4.10  Whilst we are grateful to the Minister for this further information, we note that the Government is still not satisfied either with the position as regards animals not currently listed coming from third countries or with the safeguards relating to animals from the candidate countries. Since these are potentially important loopholes, we assume that, notwithstanding the Minister's statement that the proposal "may be ready for adoption by the end of June", the Government will resist such a step unless and until its concerns on these two points have been met. In view of this, we are not clearing the proposals, and we would like the Minister to continue to keep us informed of any developments.


 
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