HC Deb 04 June 1996 vol 278 cc431-3W
Mr. Redmond

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list for each of his Department's agencies, what market testing has been carried out into the services they provide and what were the results. [30114]

Mr. Boswell

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Meat Hygiene Service will reply to the hon. Member through agency chief executive letters. The information for the Department's other agencies is as follows:

Agricultural Development and Advisory, Service (ADAS) ADAS has market tested document creation services, banking services, welfare services and debt recovery services. Contracts have been awarded to private sector firms. ADAS is currently market testing insurance services and has short-listed four brokers. In the normal course of its business ADAS procures a wide range of local and central services from the private sector including, for example, office cleaning, maintenance, security and legal services.

Union country in each year since the disease was first recognised; and what assessment he has made of the reasons for the differences in incidence. [29246]

Mrs. Browning

The following number of BSE cases have been recorded in the United Kingdom and other European countries in each year since the disease was first recognised.

The reason for the difference in incidence is the exposure of cattle in the United Kingdom to infected animal feed which in exported form may have been a factor in some of the countries reporting cases in indigenous animals.

Central Science Laboratory (CSL) Whilst the scientific services provided by CSL have been subject to market testing by the core-Department, CSL has not market tested any of its scientific work with a view to contracting out. In terms of non-scientific work, CSL has not carried out any strategic market testing as such. However, the agency is relocating to a new purpose-built laboratory near York in the late summer and services such as catering, operation of the day nursery and facilities management for the site will all be contracted out and bids are currently being evaluated.

Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) The directorate market tested a part of its residue monitoring work and awarded a three year contract to a private contractor starting in 1995–96. This was a pilot exercise which if successful would lead to further work being market tested. The successful contractor decided after the first year to withdraw from the contract for commercial reasons. This work and the further work will be market tested in 1996–97.

Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) The services of the VLA have been subject to one market test. This was in the area of analysis of samples collected under the national surveillance scheme for the presence of veterinary residues in meat. The work is conducted for the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. This market test was won by the in-house team at the VLA following competition with the private section.

Letter from John FitzGerald to Mr. Martin Redmond, dated 4 June 1996. In the absence of the Chief Executive on business, the Minister has asked me to reply on behalf of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) to your question about the market testing of services provided by his Department's Agencies.(30114) The VMD is responsible for the issue of marketing authorisations for veterinary medicines, for controls on their manufacture and distribution, for post authorisation surveillance of suspected adverse reactions to veterinary medicines and for the provision and implementation of policy advice to Ministers. The Agency is also responsible for the statutory and non-statutory surveillance for residues in meat and other animal products. The analytical work undertaken as part of the statutory National Surveillance Scheme for residues in meat has been market tested and a contract was awarded to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, with an annual cost saving of almost 12 per cent.

Letter from Johnston McNeill to Mr. Martin Redmond, dated 4 June 1996. As Chief Executive of the Meat Hygiene Service, your question to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food concerning the market testing of services has been passed to me for reply with regard to this Executive Agency.(30114) The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) was launched on 1 April 1995 as an Executive Agency of MAFF. It took over from local authorities responsibility for the enforcement of the hygiene and welfare at slaughter legislation in licensed fresh meat premises in England, Scotland and Wales. The Government decision to set up the MHS was taken to meet the long-standing requests of a majority of representative organisations in the meat industry, who has criticised the uneven standards and varying costs of the service operated by local authorities. In the first year of its operation the MHS created the Hygiene Advice Team (HAT) project to visit and assess animal welfare conditions in all licensed slaughterhouses and hygiene in all fresh meat premises. Each visit was undertaken so as to assess the operation of the plant under normal working conditions. The purposes of the HAT project were to assess the overall character of hygiene and welfare and provide a common criteria of assessment and scoring against which improvements can be judged, but also to plan the optimum use of MHS resources and achieve maximum cost effectiveness in the delivery of its services, and to provide a uniform and equitable service for all customers. A considerable proportion of the Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) of the MHS are veterinary practises engaged by contractual arrangements. As a full cost recovery service and in line with government policy towards the extension of competition to public services in the form of tendering and Market Testing, the MHS seeks to ensure that the work of OVSs is conducted at optimum proficiency and price. Furthermore, the MHS undertakes a statutory consultation exercise with all plant operators about its proposed charges for meat inspection. Plant operators have the opportunity under the Meat (Hygiene, Inspection and Examination for Residues) (Charges) Regulations 1995 to make representations about the proposed charges. In setting up the MHS great care was taken to avoid imposing additional costs on the industry and the agency's organisation, structure and overheads are the minimum consistent with providing an effective service. The MHS is also subject to challenging annual financial and performance targets to ensure that it delivers its services in the most cost effective way.