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Balance of Competences Review

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

I wish to inform the House that, further to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ oral statement launching the review of the balance of competences in July this year and the written statement on the progress of the review on 23 October 2012, Official Report, column 46WS, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency have published their call for evidence relating to the animal health, welfare and food safety report. This report will cover animal health, animal welfare and food safety—including feed safety, food labelling, quality and compositional standards.

The call for evidence will be open for 12 weeks. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency will draw together the evidence and policy analysis into a first draft which will subsequently go through a process of scrutiny before publication in summer 2013.

The report will focus on the issues associated with protecting animal health, welfare and food safety, where maintaining a strong internal market while allowing sufficient national and local choice on issues such as how to deal with risk creates some challenges and tensions. A key question for this review will be whether the benefits to the UK of protecting the functioning of the internal market justify the high level of EU competence in this area.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency will take a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. The call for evidence sets out the scope of the report and includes a series of broad questions on which contributors are requested to focus. Interested parties are invited to provide evidence with regard to political, economic, social and technological factors. The evidence received (subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act) will be published alongside the final report in summer 2013 and will be available on the new Government website:

The Departments will pursue an active engagement process, consulting widely across Parliament and its Committees, the devolved Administrations, businesses and civil society in order to obtain evidence to contribute to our analysis of the issues. Our EU partners and the EU institutions will also be invited to contribute evidence to the review. As the review is to be objective and evidence-based, encouraging a wide range of interested parties to contribute will ensure a high yield of valuable information.

The resulting report will be a comprehensive, thorough and detailed analysis of what EU competence in the field of animal health and welfare and food and feed safety means for the UK. It will aid our understanding of the nature of our EU membership and will provide a constructive and serious contribution to the wider European debate about modernising, reforming and improving the EU. The report will not produce specific policy recommendations.

I am placing this document and the call for evidence in the Libraries of both Houses. They will also be published on the DEFRA and FSA websites and accessible through the balance of competences review pages on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.