HC Deb 18 November 1998 vol 319 cc681-2W
Mr. Yeo

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the increase in the level of supervision in slaughterhouses resulting from the implementation of the Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Charges Regulations 1998. [58234]

Mr. Nick Brown

The recently announced increases in the level of veterinary supervision in licensed meat plants, including slaughterhouses, stem from the under-implementation by the previous Government of harmonised Community meat hygiene rules in Great Britain, for which the European Commission has begun infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom.

After detailed consideration, we have concluded that veterinary supervision arrangements of licensed plants in Great Britain should be brought into line with Community rules as quickly as possible. As full compliance is not possible immediately, essentially because of a shortage of veterinarians in the UK willing to undertake meat hygiene work, the Meat Hygiene Service has produced a programme of initiatives to secure additional veterinary resources and to implement a series of incremental increases in veterinary supervision levels over a relatively short period of time as those additional resources become available.

In accordance with EC rules, the costs of such additional veterinary supervision will have to be recovered from plant operators in the normal way. We recognise, of course, that the resulting increase in costs will be unwelcome to the industry, but the increased supervision is essential if official control over fresh meat in licensed plants is to be improved, a European Court case is to be avoided, and our efforts to have the beef export ban lifted for the whole of the UK are not to be undermined.