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Plants: Inspections

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 45174, tabled on 8 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what economic impact assessment he has carried out on the impact of plant inspection charges on garden centres.

Answered on

17 September 2021

It has long been UK Government policy to charge for many publicly provided goods and services. The standard approach is to set fees to recover the full costs of service delivery. This relieves the general taxpayer of costs, so that they are properly borne by users who benefit from a service. This allows for a more equitable distribution of public resources and enables lower public expenditure and borrowing. Defra plant health services operate in line with that principle and have done for many years.

No assessment on the impact of plant inspection charges on garden centres has been carried out.

Legislation relating to fees does not fall within the bounds of the Business Impact Target and so does not require the development of impact assessments.

Additionally, The Plant Health etc. (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, which extended the existing plant health charging regime to imports from and exports to the EU, was covered by a statutory exclusion under the Small Business Enterprise and Employment (SBEE) Act, because the instrument was varying an existing charge levied by a public body (the Animal and Plant Health Agency). The actual cost to businesses will vary depending on how they organise their imports and the type of material being imported.

However, Defra has engaged extensively with industry and, to reduce the burden on businesses, Defra took the decision to delay the introduction of inspection fees for imports of ‘high priority’ plants and plant products from the EU until 1 June 2021 in England and Wales. In arriving at the decision to delay the introduction of plant health import inspection fees for these goods, Defra has had to balance the need to support affected businesses against legal considerations and the rules around managing public money. Delaying these fees until 1 June 2021 struck the right balance between these competing demands.