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When new EC health certificates were introduced in 1995 the UK Customs and Port Health Authority tried to impose the regulations retrospectively on goods in transit. They impounded a container-load of Bombay Duck bound for TRS Wholesale Co. Ltd. It was only with great difficulty that Mr. Suterwalla, the proprietor, managed to get the consignment released. The EC had stated that goods in transit should be allowed adequate time to arrive at their destination on condition that they were systematically checked on arrival.
This seemed to mark the end of UK imports although adequate stocks remained to last for a couple of years. Our European partners managed to maintain imports of Bombay Duck until 1997 when the temporary ban on all fish products was imposed.
In the full knowledge that there were no health risks with Bombay Duck, the UK Government strongly supported the EC ban on imports.
The attitude of UK ministers and officials is to stick rigidly to the harshest possible interpretation of EU regulations. They are determined to make no attempt to rectify an obvious injustice. It is as though they have been cowed by the European Commission and are afraid to be branded again as the "awkward partner" in the alliance.
This is the reply to a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Food on the 3 March 1999 tabled by Mr Anthony Steen MP:
From Mr Rooker: My Department has received a small number of enquiries concerning Bombay Duck. None of these has resulted in Her Majesty's Government approaching the European Union about the current import conditions for this product. The need for all fishery products, including Bombay Duck, to originate from approved establishments is a key aspect of the conditions applying to EU imports from third countries, These measures have been established to protect public health.
Note the obtuse reference again to "approved establishments".
The Food Minister Mr Jeff Rooker declared on BBC Radio 4 Food Programme that "the government was very concerned about niche food producers." When I asked him for help to lift the ban on Bombay Duck, a niche food, he claimed there was no ban. He refused to appear on BBC West Midlands Radio to discuss this with me. It is obvious is that the 'enemy' is as much in Westminster as in the EU.