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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee 24 November 2021

Agenda: Subordinate Legislation, United Kingdom Subordinate Legislation, Climate and Nature Emergencies


Subordinate Legislation

Plant Health (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2021 [Draft]

Good morning, and welcome to the 12th meeting in session 6 of the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee. I remind members who are using electronic devices to switch them to silent mode.

Our first item of business is consideration of draft regulations. I refer members to committee papers 1 and 2. I welcome to the committee Lorna Slater, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, along with her officials Clarinda Burrell, Rachel Coutts and James Nott, who join us remotely. I am sure that this will not be the only time that we shall meet the minister. I invite her to make an opening statement.

Thank you for making the time today to consider this draft Scottish statutory instrument. The regulations are being made to amend Scottish legislation in the field of plant health—in particular, in relation to fees payable to Scottish ministers that are associated with plant passports and phytosanitary certification for forestry products.

Provision is introduced to facilitate an exemption from the requirement to pay fees for phytosanitary certificates for forestry exports from Scotland to Northern Ireland in certain circumstances, under the United Kingdom Government’s movement assistance scheme. That will serve to support Scottish exporters in the post-transition period.

As Northern Ireland remains part of the European Union plant health system, exports from Scotland to Northern Ireland are required to fulfil EU entry requirements, including phytosanitary certificates. The movement assistance scheme, which is funded by the UK Government, temporarily removes the requirement on exporters to pay fees that are associated with obtaining a phytosanitary certificate for exports of plants and plant products to Northern Ireland.

Provision is also introduced to increase the fees that are charged for export certification services for forestry products and inspections in connection with a plant passport authority for forestry professional operators, reflecting an inflationary rise in the cost of providing those services. Fees for the services have not been increased since 2004 and 2006, respectively. The provision will allow Scottish ministers to recover more of their plant health costs through fees for services, with the aim of minimising the potential spread of damaging plant pests and diseases and enabling Scotland to continue to meet international plant health requirements and standards.

The regulations also correct a minor typographical error in the Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2014, and make amendments to the Plant Health (Official Controls and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 to deficiency fix EU law to make it operable.

I consider that the regulations are necessary and appropriate. My officials and I are happy to take questions from the committee.

Good morning. If the amendment expires on 31 December 2022, what happens after that?

We will need to bring it back again to extend it. The UK Government has agreed to extend the scheme to 2023, so the SSI will need to be brought again and re-amended.

The consultation was done informally with sector representatives. Who were those representatives?

Discussions took place in Scotland with the Scottish tree health advisory group, which is the core stakeholder advisory group for tree health matters in Scotland. Its membership includes senior expert representatives from across the tree and forest sector, who act to facilitate knowledge exchange between the Scottish Government and stakeholders. The discussions indicated that the fee increases that are outlined in regulations 3 and 4 were considered necessary and reasonable and would not have any significant negative effect on the forestry sector. It is also worth noting that the increases have already been implemented in other countries within the UK, so we are bringing Scotland into line.

That is helpful. Lastly, where does the specific budget for the exportation certification—which will be used by the UK Government for the provision—come from? Does it come from an EU transition fund?

I do not know the answer to that. Maybe my officials can help me with that one.

Thank you.

Are the officials able to say where, in the UK budget, the money comes from?

We are not getting an answer straight away.

We will make a note of that and will certainly get back to the committee on it.

We will write to the minister on that.

Since there are no further questions, we will move to agenda item 2, which is formal consideration of motion S6M-02211. I invite Ms Slater to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee recommends that the Plant Health (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.—[Lorna Slater]

Motion agreed to.

Is the committee content to delegate authority to me to sign off our report on our deliberations on the affirmative SSI?

Members indicated agreement.

That completes consideration of the instrument. I thank the minister and her officials for attending.

09:05 Meeting suspended.  

09:06 On resuming—