HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc846-7W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Scientific Committee on Food is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [61697]

Ms Blears

I have been asked to reply.

The mandate for the scientific committee for food (SCF) is set out in European Commission (EC) Decision 1997/579/EC. The committee advises the Commission on any problem relating to the protection of the health and safety of persons arising or likely to arise from the consumption of food, in particular on nutritional, hygienic and toxicological issues.

The committee has met six times in the last 12 months and there have been numerous working group meetings. The SCF is composed of independent experts (with experience in related scientific fields) and does not represent the views of the member states in which they work. Three members with expertise in food toxicology and microbiology are based in the UK.

The committee is accountable solely to the EC which pays the travel and subsistence costs of members. There are no additional costs to UK public funds.

The committee is currently considering a number of issues relating to food additives, flavourings, constituents of packaging material, aspects of nutrition and genetically modified food. Minutes, current agendas of meetings and opinions of the committee can be found on the SCF website.

Angus Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the EU Committee for the Adaptation to Technical Progress and Application of the Community Award Scheme for an Eco-label is next due to meet; whether representatives of the Scottish Executive(a) have been and (b) are members of it; and if she will make a statement. [68547]

Mr. Meacher

The next meeting is scheduled for 25 September this year. The European Commission has not yet circulated a final agenda, but the Committee's normal business is to vote formally on new or revised technical criteria that manufacturers need to satisfy to obtain the eco-label award for their products.

The Committee—now called the Eco-label Regulatory Committee—consists of member states' nominated representatives. The UK is represented by an official from this Department. Representatives from the Scottish Executive have not attended, because the Executive has asked DEFRA to carry out all functions in relation to the EU eco-label on its behalf, as have the new Administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland. We liaise with the Administrations on relevant matters, and before each Regulatory Committee meeting DEFRA consults the new Administrations about the matters to be voted on.

We actively support the eco-label award scheme, whose aims are to promote products which can reduce negative environmental impacts, and to help provide consumers with accurate information about these aspects. The scheme was set up in 1992 by EU Regulation 880–92, which was revised in 2000 by Regulation 1980–2000. To obtain the award, companies must prove that their products meet the appropriate environmental criteria agreed by EU member states, which are published on the Commission's website at http://europa.eu.int/comm/ environment/ecolabel/.