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Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: No.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) Ownership Board is currently responsible for authorising the performance bonus received by the chief executive of the MHS. Performance is assessed against published objectives and targets. It is proposed that ownership of the MHS will transfer to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It is expected that it will then be for the FSA Board to make decisions on how payment of any performance bonus to the chief executive of the MHS will be handled.

There are no plans to alter the current system whereby responsibility for staff matters outside the Senior Civil Service is delegated to the chief executive of the MHS.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The information requested is not available.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

6 Jul 1999 : Column WA91

Lord Donoughue: The task of the Meat Hygiene Service will be to carry out the policy of the Food Standards Agency in accordance with the standards set by the agency. If individual meat hygiene enforcement officials failed to implement that policy, appropriate action, including disciplinary action, would be taken.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What factors were taken into account when the decision was taken to absorb the Meat Hygiene Service into the structure of the proposed Food Standards Agency was made.[HL3313]

Lord Donoughue: The Government took note of the recommendations from Professor Philip James in his proposal for a Food Standards Agency that the Meat Hygiene Service should form part of that agency; and of the widely supportive comments in response to that report. The Government also took the view that it was in principle right that a body with responsibilities that were primarily concerned with food safety should form part of the Food Standards Agency.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any alternative arrangements were considered for the continuation of the Meat Hygiene Service other than its absorption into the structure of the proposed Food Standards Agency; what those arrangements were; and, in the event that any were considered, why they were rejected.[HL3314]

Lord Donoughue: No. The Government did not consider any alternative options in detail because it agreed with Professor James' recommendation that the Meat Hygiene Service should form part of the Food Standards Agency.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the context of the proposed Food Standards Agency exercising its auditing function in respect of the Meat Hygiene Service, what powers or authority they will have to enforce its findings where these indicate that the Meat Hygiene Service is failing to perform satisfactorily; and what sanctions they will be able to impose in the event that the Meat Hygiene Service does not meet its performance targets.[HL3315]

Lord Donoughue: The proposed Food Standards Agency will be able to direct the Meat Hygiene Service to improve its performance should it fail to perform satisfactorily. It will be for the agency to decide in the particular circumstances what sanctions to impose in the event of the MHS failing to meet its performance targets.

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any Principal Official Veterinary Surgeons appointed to the Meat Hygiene Service have any statutory powers in respect of the implementation of the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995; and [HL2937]

6 Jul 1999 : Column WA92

    Whether Resource Managers and other administrative staff employed by the Meat Hygiene Service have any statutory powers of entry to premises licensed under the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995.[HL2938]

Lord Donoughue: Only in circumstances where a Principal Official Veterinary Surgeon (POVS) is appointed as the Official Veterinary Surgeon to a plant will they have statutory powers in respect of the implementation of the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995.

In all other circumstances, POVSs, Area Resource Managers and other administrative staff do not have any statutory powers under the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995. However, staff authorised under the Food Safety Act 1990 do have statutory powers of entry.

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, when the ability of the European national veterinary surgeons to communicate effectively with all parties is assessed, that assessment is by means of an examination, oral or written; whether marks are awarded; and, if marked, what is the pass mark; and [HL2961]

    When European national veterinary surgeons are required to complete written tests in English on case studies and legislative requirements relating to meat hygiene, what marks are awarded respectively for addressing the subject material and for competence in English; and what is the overall pass mark.[HL2962]

Lord Donoughue: Whilst no formal examination is undertaken, a veterinary surgeon's ability to communicate effectively is assessed as part of the Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS) course. Only where an acceptable standard is demonstrated are they eligible to be designated as OVSs.

Viscount Long asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Meat Hygiene Service personnel making entries in slaughterhouse "day books" recording allegations of verbal abuse on the part of slaughterhouse staff are required to substantiate these allegations and record the circumstances in which they were made; and, in the cases which were substantiated, whether any provocation was involved; and[HL3033]

    Whether any instructions have been given to Meat Hygiene Service personnel who make entries in slaughterhouse "day books" which record allegations of verbal abuse on the part of slaughterhouse staff as to their obligations to avoid defamation.[HL3034]

Lord Donoughue: Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) staff have been instructed in the proper use of the MHS Plant Day Book to record incidents of any nature.

Where the abuse is of such a serious nature as to result in a possibility of prosecution, then a full criminal investigation is carried out. This investigation will involve interviews with all parties.

6 Jul 1999 : Column WA93

Viscount Long asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have commissioned, are aware of, or will commission, detailed scientific studies which may identify differences in the microbiological standards of meat produced from slaughterhouses in which there is 50 per cent. veterinary attendance or less, compared with those plants where there is 100 per cent. attendance.[HL3320]

Lord Donoughue: No.

Viscount Long asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, when slaughterhouse owners are obliged to provide samples to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for residues sampling, not all of those samples are tested for residues.[HL3325]

Lord Donoughue: The number of samples all member states are obliged to include in their national residues surveillance plan is set out in Directive 96/23/EC. Despite regularly monitoring sample collection, it is not always possible for the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) to achieve the individual national residues plan targets because of the large numbers of samples involved and the variety of materials required for analysis. Some under and over-collection in certain sectors and categories is inevitable. This has no effect on the confidence that can be drawn from the results which remain fully representative of the animals and animal products being made available for human consumption.

Acknowledging this, my right honourable friend the Minister announced in Parliament on 29 April 1999 that he had set the VMD a high level target for the statutory surveillance programme in 1999-2000 to collect 100 per cent. of samples in the GB National residues plan and to test 95 per cent. of these samples.


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