HL Deb 13 July 1999 vol 604 cc23-4WA
Viscount Hanworth

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for consultation on the proposed level of fees for cattle passports. [HL3584]

Lord Donoughue

The Cattle Tracing System (CTS) was launched by the Government in September 1998. The system is run by a new organisation, the British Cattle Movement Service, (BCMS). The new system enables a full record to be kept of cattle and where they have been throughout their lives, helping the livestock industry to provide assurance to its customers.

Since its launch and until 5 July 1999, 2,330,113 passports for cattle have been issued by BCMS, at an average rate of 11,650 per day. It is expected that between 2½ and 3 million cattle passports will be issued annually. At the current time, 90 per cent. of passports are issued within three working days of an application being received. In addition, since last September, 1,446,993 movements of cattle have been recorded on the new system; and 221,506 calls from farmers have been handled by the BCMS call centre since it opened in July 1998.

The Government announced in February 1998 that they would pay for setting up the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) and for running it during its first full year of operation. This represented a benefit of some £36 million to the livestock industry. The Government believe that as the main beneficiaries, the livestock industry should now take over the costs of running the CTS from 27 September 1999. In a consultation document, issued on 8 July 1999, interested organisations are being consulted on the level of charges, what they cover and the methods of payment. We propose that the fee should be £7 per cattle passport. This is in the lower half of the £5 to £10 range indicated in November 1997. This proposed fee does not include the cost of time spent checking the eartags and passports of animals handled by the Meat Hygiene Service, (MHS). Instead it is proposed that the MHS should recover these costs directly from abattoirs. The cost to the abattoir sector is likely to be around £2 million per annum.

The Government propose not to charge for temporary passports, known also as calf passports. Calves are less valuable than older animals. The passport fee will be payable, however, if a temporary passport is submitted for conversion to a full cattle passport.

A copy of the consultation package, including a draft Regulatory Impact Assessment, has been placed in the Library of the House. Comments are sought by 9 August. There will be separate consultations by the administrations in Scotland and Wales, but it is expected that the fee will be at the same rate in all three countries of Great Britain.