HC Deb 25 May 2000 vol 350 cc1095-6
3. Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West)

What representations he has received from pet owners concerning the operation of the pet travel scheme. [122402]

5. Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

What steps he is taking to ensure that pet owners are fully aware of the requirements of the pet travel scheme. [122404]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Ms Joyce Quin)

We have received numerous representations on the pet travel scheme. The helpline and website are widely advertised in the national press and have been widely used. In addition, every veterinary practice has been sent fact sheets and posters.

Dr. Naysmith

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and for ensuring that pet owners in this country are aware of the pilot scheme. When will the full scheme be rolled out, and can she speculate as to when it will be extended to other countries?

Ms Quin

We aim to implement the full scheme by early next year and I hope that that will be achieved on time. Originally, the existing pilot was estimated to take up to three years, but the Government delivered it in half that time, so we have a good record in that respect. The last time the issue of extension to other countries was raised in the House, the question related to Cyprus. I understand that all problems have been resolved, and it will be possible to include Cyprus in the main scheme. I welcome that, because it is important for our service personnel.

Dr. Palmer

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the scheme has received very broad support so far from those who have participated in it? There is considerable enthusiasm at the fact that the Government have broken the logjam at last. Is she aware that reservations remain about the extent of the additional vaccination that is needed, and especially about the short time scale available for that before pets re-enter the country? Does she accept that a balance must be struck between the scheme and the need to protect the population against infection? Will she review these matters carefully when the pilot scheme ends?

Ms Quin

We do monitor the scheme. Before the main scheme is introduced, we shall review the results of the pilot scheme in the various areas that my hon. Friend has set out. However, the measures to which he has referred—in particular, the tick and tapeworm treatment, and the time scale available for it—have been chosen for good animal health reasons. The aim is to prevent the importation to this country of contagious diseases and of diseases that we do not have and do not want.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

What is the expected administrative cost of the pet travel scheme? On the principle that Ministers ought to practise what they preach, at least in a leap year, will the right hon. Lady tell the House which Ministers have expressed an interest in participating in the scheme? Specifically, has she heard from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that he expects his dog Bobby to be an early beneficiary?

Ms Quin

The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. We believe that all Ministers, as well as all citizens of this country, are eligible to benefit from the pet scheme. It is not surprising, therefore, that all people, apart from one or two Conservative Members, should have welcomed the scheme as they have. The pilot scheme has proved very effective, and we want to make sure that we learn the lessons from it.

The hon. Gentleman asked about administrative costs. Although I do not have our cost estimates with me, I shall certainly make them available to the House, as I do not want to quote a figure off the top of my head today only to have to correct it later. We believe that the scheme has been well worth while, and that the costs to citizens are far lower than the costs of quarantine. Quarantine caused a lot of misery, and was an extremely expensive system.

Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester)

Would the Minister agree that the British sovereign bases in Cyprus should be included in the scheme?

Ms Quin

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has just come into the Chamber, or whether he was simply not listening earlier when I announced that the problems in relation to Cyprus had been resolved. We look forward to Cyprus being part of the full scheme.