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Schedule 4

Volume 173: debated on Thursday 7 June 1990

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Transitional Provisions And Savings

Amendment made: No. 9, in page 51, line 38, leave out `coming into force' and insert 'commencement'.— [Mr. Maclean.]

Order for Third Reading read [Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, and Prince of Wale's Consent on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall signified.]

10.48 pm

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am confident, and I am sure that all hon. Members will be confident, that we now have before us a Bill that will see us well into the next century. It provides us with a strong and flexible framework that will allow us to tackle specific new problems as they arise. Our main objective has been to ensure the safety of food. We have also taken care not to stifle innovation in food or impose needless burdens on the many small businesses in the food chain. The Bill will, however, require industry to look more critically at its operations, with the safety of the consumer in mind. That is in everyone's interests.

The Bill is of great benefit to consumers. We have introduced tougher penalties. We have taken stronger powers. We have powers to detain batches of suspect food for further investigation and to close premises where there is an imminent risk to health. It is a worthy Bill and I commend it to the House.

10.49 pm

I had hoped that I would be able fully to endorse everything that the Minister said. However, there was one, I hope, slip of the tongue. In his hyperbole he said that we shall be lifting the burden from small businesses. I make it quite clear that, no matter the size of a business, if public health is at risk——

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. David Curry)

indicated assent

The Minister is indicating that he is with us.

The Opposition did not vote against the Bill. We had a constructive Committee stage. However, the Bill does not go far enough. As the Minister said, it is an enabling Bill and much progress can be made under it. When we have a labour Government, we shall go even further.

10.50 pm

I am sorry to spoil Conservative Members' attempts to get this debate over quickly, but I shall make a couple of important points. The Bill misses many opportunities to protect the consumer—for example, an independent food safety agency and a licensing scheme. My two brief points are about the resources to implement the Bill and the distribution of those resources.

First, the Government claim that they will provide about £30 million of what they call real money to implement the Bill. All the local authority associations have said that they need a minimum of £40 million. I still do not think that the Government have cleared up that point. The money that they will provide could easily be swallowed up in the poll tax mess next year—we have a poll tax mess this year—and not go to environmental health officers to enable them to implement the Bill.

Secondly, local authorities with many food production premises such as restaurants and takeaway establishments should have a higher proportion of the money, but that should not be the only basis on which the money is distributed. It certainly should not be distributed purely on a population basis, which would not take into account the special needs of certain areas. Distribution should be based on deprivation and poverty indicators such as housing, unemployment and other social issues. Those indicators reflect the standard of food premises in an area. I ask the Government to take that matter fully into account. I refer in particular to ethnic minorities and food handlers whose first language is not English. More money must be spent on training and on leaflets in other languages. I hope that the Minister will bear that point in mind.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.