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Exiting the European Union (Plant Health)

Part of Delegated Legislation – in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:06 pm, 8th October 2019

I thank all Members who have contributed to the debate. There were a great many more interventions than one might have expected, and I am heartened to hear that so many people are interested in plants and our biosecurity, which is extremely important to all of us in so many ways. I particularly want to thank the shadow Minister, Luke Pollard, for kindly welcoming me to my place—we are going to be a south-west stronghold. I am delighted that he is supporting the regulations. I also thank the Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend Neil Parish, for his kind words, and John Mc Nally, with whom I had many enjoyable times on the Environmental Audit Committee. Working together on these things is important.

In order to prepare for the UK leaving the EU, it is essential that we have the right legislation in place to continue to protect plant biosecurity, while facilitating the trade and movement of plants and plant material around the world. We have a great many plants coming into the UK, but equally we export a great many plants. That must continue, but it must be safe, and we must be sure that any diseases or pests are under a tight microscope.

I take slight issue with the shadow Minister, because I do not believe that this statutory instrument has been rushed. Importantly, as I mentioned—I am sure he was listening—these regulations update legislation to include the particular biodiversity threats posed by the rosette virus and the oak processionary moth. Those threats have come to light since 31 March, and it was essential that we included them in the regulations. That demonstrates that we are on the ball and will not let things pass under the radar. I hope that the shadow Minister agrees.

A number of points were raised, and I will whizz through a few of them. Jim Shannon asked what we are doing about alien species. As I said, we work with evidence to develop a risk-based and proportionate approach to plant health measures. We have in the past introduced precautionary national measures to protect the UK against threats that we see arising elsewhere in the EU and beyond. A good example is the stronger national legislation we put in place against Xylella fastidiosa in response to the situation elsewhere in the EU. We are now introducing national legislation to protect against the oak processionary moth and a potato pest called Epitrix.

Susan Elan Jones raised a question about material in transit from third countries. Regulated material will transit in sealed conditions through the EU with a phytosanitary certificate. Material entering England via the roll-on roll-off ports will need to transit to a point of first arrival in England, where plant health inspectors will carry out plant health checks. A very definite system is set in place, and people exporting and importing plant material have all had notification of this, so it is quite clear what is going to happen. Such material must be pre-notified to the APHA, which will inspect it before releasing it, and direct third-country imports, sea and air freight will be checked at the border, as currently.