As the ‘voice’ of our industry our job is to make sure the industry’s perspective is heard when the Government gathers information before it changes laws.

We’ve spent a considerable amount of time this year responding to UK Government and devolved administration or parliamentary committee consultations and calls for evidence.

Government departments or parliamentary committees ask interested parties for their views on questions they pose on a particular topic. They then consider all the received information and write reports which then either sets out a proposed law change or, in the case of parliamentary committees, sets out various ‘calls for action’ which it puts to Government.

So taking part in these consultations is a useful way for our very niche industry to amplify our point of view about the particular issues that concern the way we do business.

One such piece of work we completed this year was responding to a call for evidence from a House of Lords committee on its inquiry into issues around plant and animal biosecurity post-Brexit.

We recognise that virtually every species in which our industry trades is not native to the UK so it’s imperative for us all to ensure high standards of biosecurity when moving animals and plants around the world. Therefore this kind of inquiry is exactly the sort that needs a response from OATA.

You can read our response here (and we have to thank our former Chief Executive Keith Davenport for coming out of retirement to help us put this together at a very busy time in the office).

It was a great opportunity for us to set out the rules and regulations covering aquatic plants and animals coming into the UK (most of which come from outside the EU). And to highlight again our big bugbear – the listing of aquatic plants under the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation which has seen plants like water hyacinth banned from sale despite posing no invasive risk to the UK.

The Lords committee has now published its report, giving its voice to Government about where it thinks more needs to be done as we approach Brexit. You can read it here.

Of course we always read these post inquiry reports with great interest to see if and how we have been able to inform what’s included in the report. We’re pleased that OATA has been referenced several times in the document – which shows they considered us a credible and knowledgeable source of information (always good).

What’s also interesting to read is section on the listing of invasive species (and also EU plant pest legislation which banned the sale of apple snails) and whether there is scope for the UK to allow certain currently banned species to be offered for sale again (see Chapter 7 on page 49).

We particularly liked the contribution highlighted in the report by Mr Alan Ball who “pointed out that apple snails are prohibited in the EU as an invasive species, but argued that the UK was outside the risk area because of its colder climate, so could safely allow their import: “The UK has no reason whatsoever to fear the shell suited migrant molluscs with an EU ASBO.” Very nice turn of phrase Alan – and just goes to show that there is nothing stopping private citizens submitting their thoughts on these kinds of inquiry too.

The Lords seem to agree that there is a good opportunity to look again at the current listing of banned invasive species (which includes quite a few aquatic plants). But it also goes on to say there is an opportunity to tighten biosecurity measures as an island nation. This is somewhat worrying but we would agree with another recommendation that this needs to based on sound scientific evidence – we always have plenty to offer. Decisions should always be based on this, something we are not always convinced is the case when it comes to the European listing mechanism.