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Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average change in veterinary charges in abattoirs has been in the last five years. (96593)

I have been asked to reply.

I understand from the Food Standards Agency that operators of abattoirs pay charges for meat hygiene official controls either on the basis of standard European Community fees for animal throughput, or on the basis of the cost of the controls if this would provide a lower charge. In 2005-06, about 95 per cent. of operators of abattoirs paid charges for hygiene controls based on European Community fees for animal throughput. These fees have not been increased since they were introduced in 2001.

The other 5 per cent. of abattoir operators, mainly of the largest abattoirs, pay charges based on the cost of the meat hygiene official controls that are carried out. These charges include an element for veterinary costs in addition to the costs of other classes of official control staff and overheads. The veterinary cost element of the charge in Great Britain comprises the cost of veterinarians employed by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) or the cost of veterinary services provided under contracts that are let competitively by the MHS and are individual to each abattoir. The veterinary cost element of meat hygiene charges for services provided by veterinarians employed by the MHS increased by approximately 24 per cent. from 2002-03 to 2006-07. The change in the average cost of contract veterinarians in the last five years could not be obtained without disproportionate cost.