Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fourth Report


COM(00) 529

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

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: Second SEM of 16 April 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) and HC 152-xxi (2001-02), paragraph 4 (13 March 2002)
To be discussed in Council: 22-23 April 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  2.1  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.

  2.2  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.

  2.3  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.

  2.4  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.

  2.5  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.

  2.6  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.

  2.7  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 was borne out by the actual wording of the proposal.

  2.8  We therefore said that, before we could clear the document, we needed 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.

  2.9  In a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 5 March 2002, the Minister was able to deal satisfactorily with the second of the three points. However, as regards the other two, he said 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, although other Member States shared the UK's concern about the position of animals from candidate countries, the Commission believed that this was adequately covered by the wording in the proposal. The UK therefore intended to follow up both of these points in further discussion.

  2.10  In our Report of 13 March 2002, we noted that the Government was still not satisfied with the position on these two points, and, since they represented potentially important loopholes, we assumed that, notwithstanding the Minister's statement that the proposal "may be ready for adoption by the end of June", the Government would resist such a step unless and until its concerns on these two points had been met. In view of this, we said that we were not clearing the proposals, and that we would like the Minister to continue to keep us informed of any developments

Second Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 16 April 2002

  2.11  We have now received a Second Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum from the Minister dealing with these outstanding concerns. On the position of animals not covered by the Regulation entering from third countries, he says that the Council Legal Services have confirmed that species not covered by the Regulation would continue to be subject to any other Community rules on the import of animals, or in the absence of such rules, to Member States' existing national regulations. The provision previously in the draft, about laying down requirements for movements between Member States of species not list in the Regulation, has been deleted. On the safeguards in respect of animals entering the Community from candidate countries, the Minister says that both the Commission and the Council Legal Services have assured the UK that the provisions in the proposal covering safeguard measures could be applied to applicant countries when they become Member States, and that this would include the use of quarantine in the UK.

  2.12  However, whilst this appears to deal satisfactorily with the earlier concerns, we note from the Minister's Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum, not only that the Council is expected to agree a Common Position at the Agriculture Council on 22-23 April, but that the proposal has been changed in at least one very significant respect. This relates to the suggestion that the UK could continue to apply provisions similar to its Pet Travel Scheme only during a transitional period of five years, at the end of which, in the light of experience and of the opinion of the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission would make further proposals on changes to apply from 1 January 2008. In other words, whereas the original proposal appeared to have the obvious attraction of enshrining within Community law on a more or less permanent basis the measures which the UK had felt able to include in the Pet Travel Scheme, there is now no guarantee that this will continue to be the case after 2007. Indeed, given the reference to a transitional period and the very different approach taken in this area by most other Member States, it seems to us that there must be a very real risk of the UK's safeguards being diluted at that point.


  2.13  Since this would represent a fundamental change in the whole balance of the proposal, we would have expected the Minister to have set out the implications more fully in his recent Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum, and we would like him to do so now. We would also find it helpful to have a clearer explanation of the significance of his statement that "the present text does not explicitly allow the UK to continue its treatment for ticks". Pending further information on these two points, we are not clearing these documents, and we would expect the Minister to maintain a parliamentary scrutiny reserve when the subject is considered at the Council on 22-23 April.

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