§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has now concluded the review of meat inspection charges which he announced on 9 March; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Gummer
I am today making available in the Library of the House copies of summary statistics collected by the review team, and of recommendations by the agriculture departments to interested local authorities and members of the meat industry. These are directed at clarifying the basis on which charges are calculated, and enabling co-operation between plant operators and local authorities to facilitate consistent and cost-effective inspection throughout Great Britain. I hope that they will help local authorities discharge their statutory responsibilities efficiently, in the period of transition until the new national meat hygiene service takes over these responsibilities. We wish to thank those local authorities and members of the industry who provided information to the review team.17W
The Government remain concerned that the EC legislation under which meat inspection charges are required to be levied should be efficient, cost effective and applied on a uniform basis throughout the Community. In the light of the detailed findings of the review, we will be pressing the European Commission to bring forward satisfactory proposals for the revision of these EC arrangements for discussion by the Council of Ministers. This issue has important implications for fair competition in the single market, and we will press for it to be resolved in the forthcoming UK presidency.