To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress is being made on future meat hygiene enforcement arrangements.
The review of fresh meat hygiene enforcement was commissioned last year by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Health, for Scotland and for Wales, and myself as part of our preparations for implementing the European single market.My right hon. Friends and I have given careful consideration to the findings of the detailed study of methods of providing a meat hygiene service, which was carried out by officials of my Department and the Department of Health, assisted by Price Waterhouse. We have concluded that for Great Britain the interests of the meat industry, our consumers and overseas customers would best be served by the creation of a national meat hygiene service. The service would be constituted as an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and would therefore be fully accountable to British Ministers. We are confident that this is the best way of achieving a consistent and cost-effective enforcement service in the special circumstances of the fresh meat sector. Local authorities' responsibilities for enforcing other food legislation are not affected by the decision to create a specialist meat hygiene agency.Officials will work very closely with the local authority associations, the organisations representing the veterinary and environmental health professions and the meat inspectors, and the meat industry, to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements. The date for transfer of responsibility of meat hygiene enforcement to the agency will depend on the availability of parliamentary time for the necessary primary legislation. For the time being, local authorities will remain responsible for enforcing the meat hygiene legislation and providing the meat inspection service.The decision to create this service is a further element in the Government's policy of ensuring that food safety standards in this country remain second to none. The new service will ensure that hygiene standards in the British meat industry allow it to compete effectively both in the single market and worldwide, and further enhance consumer confidence in the high standards of British meat.