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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average period of late receipt was for applications refused on the grounds of lateness under the British Cattle Movement Service Cattle Passport Scheme in the last year for which figures are available; and if she will introduce a grace period to take account of delays in the postal service as a cause of lateness.
In the year 2004, the average period of late receipt for cattle passport applications was 207 days. This figure is surprisingly high, because of a fairly small number of applications that were received many months or even years late.
It may be more helpful to explain that 50 per cent. of applications that were refused because of late application were received up to seven days late. 8 per cent. were between eight and 14 days late. A further 18 per cent. were up to six months late. 24 per cent. were over six months late, including some that were several years late.
Approximately 20 per cent. of refused passports are subsequently issued following a successful appeal.
The British Cattle Movement Service allows appeals on the grounds of postal delay only if the applicant can prove by independent evidence that he or she posted the application in good time.
The Cattle Identification Regulations 1998 require that passports be refused when applications are received late. A comprehensive review of these regulations will be carried out shortly and possible changes to the procedures concerning late passport applications will be considered. However, it is important to maintain a system that encourages farmers to register cattle births promptly. The full and accurate traceability of cattle is essential for disease control, and for the protection of public and animal health and welfare.