House of Lords - Explanatory Note
Food Standards Bill - continued          House of Lords

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Schedule 5: Minor and Consequential Amendments

This Schedule makes minor amendments to other legislation which are a consequence of the creation and new responsibilities of the Agency, and also to provide for the functions of the Agency provided in Schedule 3.

Paragraph 1 amends the relevant legislation on agricultural statistics that applies in Scotland, and has the same purpose as paragraph 3 (see below).

Paragraph 2 amends the Trades Descriptions Act 1968. Orders made under that Act concerning food or feedingstuffs will in future be made jointly by the President of the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for Health (rather than the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Ministers if appropriate. The Agency will also be consulted. In practice, this provision is likely to be used only rarely since these provisions are largely duplicated by powers in the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Agriculture Act 1970.

Paragraph 3 provides that information on agricultural holdings obtained for the purposes of compiling the agricultural and horticultural census in England and Wales may, at the discretion of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, be disclosed to the Agency for purposes connected with carrying out its functions. This would allow the Agency, as a non-Ministerial government department in its own right, to be treated in the same way as Ministerial government departments, to which disclosure is currently possible under section 3(1) of the Agricultural Statistics Act 1979.

The Agency would use information obtained in this way to assist it in planning food safety surveys on farms (in preparing for a survey of the presence of salmonella in poultry, for example, it would need to know where poultry breeding took place). The information would also assist the Agency in considering applications for industrial discharge authorisations, on which it will be a statutory consultee, as well as in dealing with emergency contamination incidents. In practice, the Agency is likely to use such data infrequently and on a limited scale.

Paragraph 4 amends the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 Part I. References to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are removed, so these functions may now only be exercised by the Secretary of State.

Paragraphs 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10 amend the Food Safety Act 1990, removing references to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. They also provide for some of the powers described in Part I of Schedule 3.

Paragraphs 7 and 20 concern the Isles of Scilly. Due to the slightly anomalous position of the Scilly Isles in the local government structure, the 1990 Act provided that its application to the Isles could be subject to such exceptions and modifications as Ministers may direct. In practice however, the only modification which has been necessary is to provide for the council of the Isles of Scilly to be the enforcement authority in the Isles. This has now been made explicit by amendment to section 5 of the 1990 Act (Schedule 5 paragraph 7), so section 57(1) is no longer necessary and ceases to have effect (paragraph 20).

Paragraph 8 amends section 6 (enforcement) of the Food Safety Act 1990. It provides for the Secretary of State to direct that a duty imposed on an enforcement body under the Act should instead be discharged by himself or by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or by the Agency. It also provides for the Agency to be one of the bodies which may be named as an enforcement body in regulations made under section 6 of the 1990 Act (it is envisaged that this power will be used for instance in relation to the Meat Hygiene Service, which will become part of the Food Standards Agency). Amendments also provide for the Secretary of State to take over a prosecution begun by another person under the Food Safety Act 1990 (this replaces a similar provision in the current Act) or for the Agency to take over such proceedings with the consent of that person or at the direction of the Secretary of State.

Paragraph 9 amends section 13 of the Food Safety Act 1990 (emergency control orders). Power to make emergency control orders will transfer to the Secretary of State, although this may be delegated to the Agency under clause 17 of this Bill. The amendments in paragraph 9 allow either the Agency or the Secretary of State to consent to exemptions, give directions to prevent food subject to an order being used commercially, and to recover costs from persons failing to comply with an order.

Paragraph 14 concerns offences by Scottish partnerships. Section 36 of the Food Safety Act 1990 provides that, where an offence under the Act committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of (or be attributable to any neglect on the part of) a director, manager, secretary or similar office holder of the body, or by a person purporting to act in such a capacity, that person (as well as the body corporate) is deemed guilty of the offence. It has been held that in Scotland the words "body corporate" include a partnership which in Scots law has an identity separate from that of the individual partners. This clause adds a new section 36A to provide that individual partners may be charged along with the partnership in respect of any offence committed under the Act.

Paragraph 15 amends section 40 of the Food Safety Act 1990 in the following ways. Sub-paragraph (2) inserts a new subsection (1A) to give the Agency power, after consulting the Secretary of State, to issue a direction to a local authority to ensure that it complies with a statutory code of practice issued under section 40. Sub-paragraph (3) amends section 40(2)(b) to require local authorities to comply with a direction of the Agency, but the power of Ministers to direct is abolished. Sub-paragraph (4) amends section 40(3) so that the Agency rather than Ministers can obtain a court order forcing a local authority to take appropriate action where it fails to comply with a direction but it must consult the Secretary of State before doing so. Sub-paragraphs (5) and (6) amend section 40(4) of the Food Safety Act, concerning consultation of interested parties before issuing codes of practice. Ministers are required to have regard to the Agency's advice on these matters. The requirement to consult relevant organisations is retained, although consultation carried out by the Agency may be taken as meeting this obligation.

Paragraph 16 amends section 41 of the Food Safety Act 1990 by removing from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the power to require local authorities to provide information that is relevant to their enforcement work carried out under the Act and assigns that power to the Agency.

Paragraph 17 amends section 42 of the Food Safety Act 1990 by empowering the Secretary of State to direct the Agency (as an alternative to designating another local authority) to carry out the enforcement functions of a local authority that has failed to meet its enforcement obligations.

Paragraph 18 amends section 45 of the Food Safety Act. Shortly after the enactment of the 1990 Act, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments expressed some doubt as to whether section 45 allowed for charges to be imposed on application for a licence, rather than on its granting. This amendment makes it clear that section 45 enables Ministers to provide for charges to be imposed on application (for example, for a licence) and not just on completion of a transaction.

Paragraph 19 makes amendments to section 48 of the Food Safety Act 1990, concerning consultation before legislation is made under that Act by the Secretary of State. These are similar in effect to those described in paragraph 15(5) and (6) above.

Schedule 1 to the Food Safety Act 1990 supplements the subject areas in which regulations may be made by Ministers under section 16 of that Act. Paragraph 21 provides additionally for regulations to control substances and activities relating to the farm production of food sources* which may have an impact on food safety or otherwise affect consumer interests. The effect of this amendment is therefore to extend the scope of the Food Safety Act 1990 to cover the whole of the primary production end of the food chain. However, these powers will normally be used in relation to on-farm activity only where existing powers available to, for example, Agriculture or Environment Ministers are unavailable or insufficient.

    *     Food source is defined in the Food Safety Act 1990 (section 3) as any growing crop or live animal, bird or fish from which food is intended to be derived (whether by harvesting, slaughtering, milking, collecting eggs or otherwise).

Paragraph 23 revokes any byelaws made (or having effect as if made) under section 15 of the Food Act 1984 and which were continued in force under the Food Safety Act 1990. That Act abolished the power to make food byelaws, subject to a provision which saved those in force immediately before the Act came into force. Byelaws related to miscellaneous matters are no longer needed in view of the current legal provisions for food safety and standards.

Paragraph 24 amends provisions of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA 1993) to make the Agency the statutory consultee of the Environment Agency (EA) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on authorisations to dispose of radioactive waste, as well as on the revocation and variation of such authorisations. This will enable the Agency to influence the control of an important potential hazard to food safety. The Agency will replace the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales in these roles as far as England and Wales are concerned and the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to authorisations issued by SEPA.

Sub-paragraph (2) amends the relevant provisions of RSA 1993 to make the Agency the statutory consultee on authorisations in place of Ministers.

Sub-paragraph (3) does the same in respect of the revocation and variation of authorisations.

Sub-paragraphs (4) and (6) remove references to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from those parts of the RSA 1993 where he no longer has a function.

Sub-paragraph (5) amends section 25 of RSA 1993. That section allows the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to restrict access to information in applications under the Act on grounds of national security. The section (prior to the amendment made by the Bill) makes it clear that this power did not release the EA or SEPA from their duty to consult Ministers on applications for discharges and did not apply to any information sent by the EA or SEPA to Ministers. The amendment made by this paragraph simply relates the provision to the Agency rather than to Ministers, to ensure that the Agency is able properly to exercise the consultation function given to it by subsections (2) and (3).

Before setting charges in relation to licence applications, including those under the RSA 1993, the Environment Agencies are currently obliged to take into account the costs and expenses of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and certain of those of the Scottish and Welsh administrations (i.e. those performed by the Scottish and Welsh administrations which would be performed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in England). The Minister's and Secretary of State's functions under the RSA 1993 are being transferred to the Agency (see note to paragraph 19 above), and, accordingly, the amendments to Environment Act 1995 made in paragraph 25 specify that it is the Agency's costs and expenses that must be taken into account.

As the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will no longer have responsibilities in this area sub-paragraph (4) removes the need for that Minister to approve any relevant charging proposals.

Fees charged by the Environment Agencies for licences may include an element to meet the costs incurred by the Agency. Sub-paragraphs (5) and (6) allow for these sums to be transferred from the Environment Agency to the Agency after collection.

Paragraph 26 amends Schedule 5 to the Government of Wales Act 1998 to add the Agency, and its advisory committee for Wales, to the list of bodies whose members and staff can be required to attend or produce documents for the National Assembly for Wales.


Existing Government funding for food safety and standards work, and any associated charges, will be transferred from the Department of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the devolved administrations to the Agency.

The total cost of the Agency (including the Meat Hygiene Service - MHS - and Government funded research and development work) is estimated at around £125 million per annum. Of this total, the MHS accounts for around £53 million, although a substantial portion of its funding is met through charges on the industry.

One off start up costs of the Agency are estimated at about £30 million. The cost of new ongoing functions is estimated at over £20 million per annum. These include the Agency's role in promoting consistent and effective enforcement of food law, monitoring and surveillance work on-farm and an enhanced high profile public information role.


It is intended that as areas of work transfer to the Agency from MAFF and Department of Health, the posts associated with that work will transfer as well. The staff of the Agency will be civil servants. It is estimated that, once fully established, the Agency will include up to 150 more posts than the 400 that are currently in the MAFF/Department of Health Joint Food Safety and Standards Group and the equivalent functions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not all these posts will be new: there will be some offsetting savings in parent departments. The Meat Hygiene Service, which will also transfer to the Agency, employs around 1650 staff, although it is not anticipated that this number will change as a result of the creation of the Agency.

The overall net impact of the Food Standards Bill on public sector manpower is therefore estimated at approximately 150 new posts.


A Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) has been prepared to accompany the Bill. The RIA assesses the general implications of the Agency's activities for businesses and consumers across the entire food chain.

While the Bill establishes the Agency and gives it the powers necessary to carry out its functions, it does not of itself directly impose or remove regulatory burdens. New burdens may arise (or be lifted) through the future decisions and practices of the Agency, but these cannot be quantified in advance in administrative or financial terms. The Agency will be required by the provisions of the Bill to act in a responsible and proportionate manner, taking full account of risks, costs and benefits, and to consult those who may be affected by its decisions wherever possible before acting.

The RIA highlights potential costs for businesses arising from regulations made under general enabling powers in the Bill to create schemes for the notification of laboratory results from tests for food-borne diseases. The precise nature of these burdens would however be the subject of a separate RIA once the necessary subordinate legislation was drawn up.

A full RIA of the costs and benefits that this Bill would have is available to the public from:

    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,
    Food Standards Agency Division 1,
    Rm 404
    Ergon House c/o Nobel House
    17, Smith Square,
    SW1P 3JR
    Tel: 0171-238-5412


The Bill will be commenced by statutory instrument. Subject to progress in Parliament it is intended that the Agency should be launched in the first half of 2000.


Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement, before second reading, about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). Lord Donoghue, the Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made the following statement:

    In my view the provisions of the Food Standards Bill are compatible with the Convention rights.

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Prepared: 26 July 1999