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Food: Meat

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 16 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

With reference to the Food Standards Agency report, Delivery of Official Controls on Meat, how much of the cut in operational costs from £91 million to £74 million over the next five years comes from cutting bureaucracy and unnecessary work by officials; and how much by transferring the costs to abattoirs and their customers. [HL5538]

The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) is implementing radical changes to create a more efficient and effective service. Public health and animal health and welfare will not be put at risk. The components of the planned cost reductions are:

MHS staffing levels in all approved abattoirs have been reviewed, resulting in a reduction of 134 frontline posts, a saving of £4 million per annum;

a new management structure has been agreed, which will result in a reduction of 75 positions by 2009-10, a saving estimated at £4 million per annum;

all five regional offices have been closed, resulting in a saving of £1.7 million per annum;

the new time-based charging system proposed for introduction in 2009-10 will incentivise food business operators to work more closely with the MHS to reduce MHS input costs by an estimated £3 million per annum;

resource management on a new geographical cluster basis will enable more efficient staff deployment over a wider area. This will reduce costs by an estimated £2 million per annum; and

the scaling down of government programmes will reduce work undertaken for government customers, saving a further £2.3 million per annum.

All of the above activities will reduce bureaucracy, improve efficiency and will not result in any transfer of cost to abattoirs and their customers.

Alongside these cost reductions, the Food Standards Agency's long-term regulatory vision for meat production is for an increasing proportion of the cost of official controls to be met by the meat industry, not the taxpayer. Proposals for a new charging system based on time costs together with a progressive increase in charges will be subject to full public consultation, including a regulatory impact assessment, during 2008-09.