|Pet Travel Scheme
The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman's points have been noted and I shall ask the Clerk to write to the Clerk of Standing Committees.
Mr. Morley: I am interested in the comments of the hon. Member for North Norfolk on the documentation. The Department tries to get documents to the Committee as quickly as it can, although we are obviously sometimes in the hands of the European Union in relation to that. I understand that the binding is a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs innovation, so I am pleased to hear his comments on that. I certainly appreciate the points made by the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois). He is representing his party. I do not know whether he knew that when he came to the sitting, but he certainly does now.
Mr. Francois: I was well aware that I would be representing my party, but I did not understand at what level I would be representing it.
Mr. Morley: I understand exactly what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He made some fair points, and I hope that I have reassured him and other members of the Committee.
The hon. Member for North Norfolk made a point about change. I can confirm that, if there were disagreement after four years, it would be a matter of qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers. Other member states tend to be pretty reasonable on such issues. They recognised that the UK, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland operated an established system that suited their national interests and worked. Although one or two member states queried issues such as the need for blood testing and the six-month wait, they were happy to allow us to continue with the scheme that we established.
I have made it clear to the Committee that DEFRA has no objection to a review after five years. We would expect to review any of our procedures at regular intervals—five years is about the upper limit—to see whether they stand up to examination. If it is felt after five years that there is no need for blood testing, we shall be happy to accept that. At present, however, we think that the tick and tapeworm treatments are important for our country. The scheme has been accepted, and has been successful: to date, 45,000 cats and dogs have entered this country under the pet travel scheme. We implemented the scheme based on the scientific advice that we had.
Of course, we recognised that we would have to argue for the changes in the Council of Ministers. Generally, people give us a sympathetic hearing when we have a good case. We are not isolated in Europe; we have friends and allies. People tend to accept that we do not ask for things unless there is a case for them, which counts in relation to how our requests are dealt
Column Number: 11with by our European partners. I feel quite confident about that.
I am pleased that the discussions on the EU directive have progressed faster than we expected. We expect agreement in the Council in June. We have achieved the objectives that we set ourselves, which we believe strike a balance between protecting the health status of our country, and trying to minimise undue burdens and costs for those people who understandably want to move their animals in and out of the country for a variety of reasons. We think that it is a good outcome for us. We shall continue to monitor the situation, and continue to make public on our website the various studies and risk assessments that we have, when they are available to be publicised, so that people can see the work that we are doing.
I believe that the scheme has been successful. I give credit to organisations such as the Passports for Pets campaign, which campaigned strongly. As far as I am aware, everyone who has participated in the scheme
Column Number: 12has done so responsibly and reliably, which shows that people respect it and do not abuse the procedures. I am glad that the EU has recognised our requirements and given us the right to carry on with the scheme virtually unchanged for five years. We can apply it within EU rules as we see appropriate, according to the criteria that we assess and bearing it in mind that we do not want to jeopardise our rabies-free status or the health status of our country. I do not believe that the scheme does so.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at four minutes past Five o'clock.
The following Members attended the Committee:
The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(5):
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