Responding to a Parliamentary Question from Bob Blizzard MP (Waveney) Mr Brown said:
"My colleagues and I have carefully considered the cost of enforcement of these controls. We have reluctantly concluded that we can no longer defer the introduction of charges to the industry to cover these costs and that they must be transferred from taxpayers to the industry from 29 March 1999.
"SRM controls are in the fundamental interest of the industry since, by protecting animal and public health from the risk of BSE and related diseases, they enhance consumer confidence and so bolster demand for meat and meat products.
"Interested parties are being consulted on the details of the necessary legislation and a copy of the consultation package has been placed in the Library of the House. Comments are required by 12 February 1999."
Regulations requiring licensed abattoirs and cutting plants to remove Specified Risk Materials from beef intended for human consumption were introduced in 1989. The current controls, which also cover material from sheep and goats, were introduced on 1 January 1998. They are enforced in slaughterhouses and cutting plants by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS).
The controls were introduced on the recommendation of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee in order to protect human and animal health.
It is proposed to recover the actual costs of MHS enforcement. The charge would be based on the current national hourly rate for employment of meat technicians, meat inspectors and Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs). In addition, an element would be included for recovery of the costs of recruitment and pre-service training of staff.
The MHS will be assessing the level of individual charges but the overall costs to be recovered in the first year is estimated at up to £21.5 million.