The early introduction of these measures in England meets one of the recommendations of the Meat Industry Red Tape Working Group.
The aim of these new measures is to boost public health protection. It will be possible to suspend plant licences immediately if hygienic production is seriously compromised. Meat can also be seized if it has not been produced in accordance with meat hygiene legislation.
In addition, the Government is introducing powers to withdraw MHS inspection services from plants which have failed to pay their inspection charges. Measures will be put in place to minimise the risk of meat continuing to be produced and marketed illegally from such plants.
Baroness Hayman Minister of State at MAFF said of the new measures: "Law-abiding operators as well as consumers will benefit from more effective action being taken against illegal and unhygienic activities. At the moment, those who do not pay their hygiene inspection charges enjoy a commercial advantage. It is only fair to the industry as a whole and to the taxpayer, who has to bear the debt burden, that this advantage be removed."
The Meat (Enhanced Enforcement Powers) (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 2000/225) were laid before Parliament on 8 February and will come into force on 1 March 2000. Similar legislation will follow in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The main features of the new Regulations are:
The Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) (Charges) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 2000/224) were laid before Parliament on 8 February and will come into force on 1 March 2000. Similar legislation will follow in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Regulations provide for the withdrawal of services from plants where operators have failed to pay their MHS bills. Inspection services may be withdrawn where a judgement has been entered against the operator for the debt, i.e. after any appeals have been made and considered and the operator has failed within a reasonable time to settle the debt. The Minister may then refuse to carry out any further inspections at the premises in respect of which the debt accrued until the debt has been satisfied.
The Regulations also bring licensed fresh meat re-packaging centres within the scope of the Charges Regulations. Although the MHS is legally obliged to provide an inspection service at these premises, it could not until now recover the costs of carrying out such inspections.