HC Deb 22 February 1999 vol 326 cc184-5W
Mr. Todd

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will list the meat hygiene costs borne by the livestock industry in England and Wales in(a) 1996–97 and (b) 1997–98; [70944]

  1. (2) if he will list the meat hygiene (a) charges to and (b) costs borne by the (i) UK and (ii) EU member states' livestock industries which result from EU regulations; [70920]
  2. (3) which meat hygiene costs in other member states of the EU are borne by (a) public authorities and (b) the relevant livestock industry; and in cases where costs are shared, if he will indicate the proportions paid. [70922]

Mr. Rooker

Council Directive 85/73/EEC (as amended) on the financing of veterinary inspections and controls requires Member States to recover the costs of those hygiene inspections conducted at licensed fresh meat plants in accordance with harmonised EC meat hygiene rules. The Directive sets standard charges (in ECU) applicable in all Member States for hygiene inspections of red meat, poultry meat and game meat, with rates varying depending on the species and size of animals being slaughtered. Subject to meeting specified criteria, such as the efficiency of operations at individual plants, the Directive provides for the standard charge to be abated by up to 55 per cent. Conversely, where the actual cost of inspection exceeds the standard charge, the Directive provides for actual costs to be charged. Similar principles apply in respect of charges in licensed cutting plants.

The total cost to the meat industry of hygiene inspections carried out in Great Britain by the Meat Hygiene Service in 1996–97 was £26.0 million and in 1997–98 was £29.8 million.

The actual level of hygiene inspection charges levied on individual meat plants in other Member States is set by the appropriate competent authority within the framework laid down by Directive 85/73/EEC. I am currently seeking information about the level of such charges, including the extent to which hygiene inspection costs are borne by public authorities. Once I have received this information I will write to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Todd

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received concerning methods of enforcement of meat hygiene regulations in other EU states as compared to enforcement in the United Kingdom and the impact of any differences on the competitiveness of UK products; and if he will make a statement. [71158]

Mr. Rooker

The European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) is responsible for ensuring that individual EU member States comply with their Community public health obligations, including the enforcement of the EU meat hygiene Directive. The FVO carries out a regular programme of inspection visits to all Member States and publishes the reports of such visits on the Commission's website on the Internet (http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg24health/vi/reports). A list of the relevant reports also appears each month in MAFF's Meat Hygiene Enforcement Report and BSE Enforcement Bulletin.

Mr. Drew

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the estimated cost to producers if the charges for Meat and Hygiene Service inspections are passed on to them. [68726]

Mr. Rooker

Meat Hygiene Service charges are levied on the occupiers of licensed fresh meat premises. It is a commercial decision for such operators whether they pass these costs onto their suppliers.

The total cost to the meat industry of meat inspection and hygiene supervision carried out in Great Britain by the Meat Hygiene Service was £29.8 million for 1997–98 and is forecast to be £33.1 million for 1998–99. Certain MHS enforcement costs, such as those for Specified Risk Material controls, were met by Government.

The MHS budget for 1999–2000 is currently being prepared. However, after careful consideration, my right hon. Friend the Minister announced on 14 January that the Government can no longer defer the introduction of charges to industry to cover the costs of SRM controls. It is proposed that these costs, estimated to be £21.5 million, should be transferred from the taxpayer to industry from 29 March 1999. We are currently considering the results of the consultation exercise on this matter.