DEFRA is to redraft the horse passports legislation following a report identifying a catalogue of defects and inconsistencies. The legislation became law on 30 November. However, the redrafting will not change the basic requirements for owners to obtain passports for their horses by June 2004.
The parliamentary Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI) identified at least eight separate areas in which the legislation was defectively drafted, “otiose” [serving no practical purpose] or “making an unexpected use of the enabling power”.
The mistakes highlighted by the committee point to incompetence within DEFRA at drafting legislation – especially given the amount of time the document spent languishing with lawyers.
David Tredinnick MP (Con), chairman of the JCSI, says: “We had some serious criticisms of the statutory instrument, which has already become law. It had not been addressed with the care and diligence that it should have been – it’s a total muddle. The buck stops with the minister, who has taken this on board.”
Tredinnick stresses that it is critical that law involving criminal sanctions – as this legislation does – should not be ambiguous or unclear. He said it was unusual for the JCSI to identify so many anomalies.
Rural affairs minister Alun Michael admits: “There were technical drafting difficulties – it’s embarrassing and rather annoying. We will make sure it will never happen again. But it doesn’t impact on horse owners or passport issuing organisations [PIOs].”