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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): In the three weeks following the Whitsun Recess, to 25 June 1999, 224 Written Questions on the subject of slaughterhouses or the Meat Hygiene Service were tabled in the House of Lords. The cost of answering these questions during that period, incurred by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Meat Hygiene Service, was approximately £10,920. The total cost will be substantially higher, since work on these questions will continue well into July.
Once designated, the day-to-day work of an OVS is supervised by a Principal Official Veterinary Surgeon (POVS) who provides guidance and regular appraisals on performance. Appropriate management action is taken where areas for improvement are identified.
Additionally, audits are carried out by the Veterinary Public Health Unit (VPHU) in England, and the State Veterinary Service (SVS) in Wales and Scotland, to determine whether operations, practices and activities of the MHS at supervised abattoirs and cutting plants comply with the requirements specified in the MHS Operations Manual, relevant legislation and Codes of Practice. If any problems are found, they are discussed with the OVS responsible and, in most cases, the POVS. These discussions occur during and immediately after
Lord Donoughue: No differentiation is made during the Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS) course as to whether a veterinary surgeon was trained in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. All trainees therefore receive exactly the same amount of training in British law, British enforcement systems and British enforcement practices.
It is not possible to state the exact number of hours dedicated during the OVS course to training specifically in these areas. However, virtually the whole course is designed around the contents of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) Operations Manual, of which aspects of British law, British enforcement systems and British enforcement practices form an integral and important part.
During practical sessions, trainees are required to carry out HAS scores in a fresh meat, poultry meat and cutting plant. These are done under the supervision of a Principal Official Veterinary Surgeon (POVS), and have to be completed to their satisfaction. These assessments form an integral part of the practical work that trainees have to undertake as part of their training.
What arrangements exist for the urgent resolution of complaints about the conduct of Meat Hygiene Service staff where commercial arrangements and income may be affected.[HL3012]
Lord Donoughue: Any complaints received about the service provided by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) are dealt with under the MHS's complaints procedure, in which certain time limits for response are specified. These are in accordance with the latest "best practice" principles promoted by the "Service First" unit of the Cabinet Office.
Lord Donoughue: The legal position is quite clear. Neither the Treaty of Rome nor the rules of the World Trade Organisation allow the UK to ban the import of meat products that have not been produced to our own welfare standards.
Lord Donoughue: HAS scores are compiled by an Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS) from observations made while carrying out the duties detailed in Regulation 8 of the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995, as amended. The operator is required by Regulation 20 to provide the OVS with reasonable assistance. An operator can ignore the HAS score, but cannot ignore enforcement action taken under the regulations.
Lord Donoughue: In deciding whether to refer alleged contravention for investigation with a view to prosecution, officials will consider the history of previous enforcement actions in relation to the potential
Lord Donoughue: Official Veterinary Surgeons have a duty to ensure that the operators of licensed slaughterhouses or cutting plants comply with both the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 and the Specified Risk Material Regulations 1997. They are therefore required to investigate any incident in which a breach of these rules could have occurred. However, enforcement action would not be taken unless there was satisfactory evidence that an actual breach had taken place.
Lord Donoughue: A Regulatory Appraisal on the Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) (Charges) Regulations 1998 was placed in the Library of the House by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 27 August 1998.
A Regulatory Impact Assessment on the Specified Risk Material (Inspection Charges) Regulations 1999 was placed in the Library of the House by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 8 March 1999.
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