CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFRA – FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY – 7 March 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: If she will make a statement on the relationship between her Department and the Food Standards Agency?

[The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): My Department and the Food Standards Agency have a good working relationship at all levels.]

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but it does not go very far. Is it not the case that the agency has much better formalised arrangements, known as concordats, with other Departments? Does the right hon. Lady share the concern of the National Farmers Union, which has been running a campaign since the autumn on the dangers of illegal meat imports? Measures to counter that dangerous activity will not be optimised until the Department has a proper concordat with the agency.

[Margaret Beckett: I am of course aware of concern about illegal imports. I was not particularly aware of the view that a concordat was the best way of solving the problem. My Department is already undertaking a number of actions, and is having discussions with the FSA and others. That will continue. I intend, in the next week or so, to convene a high-level group to assess what more can be done. There is no need for a more formalised structure; considerable and ongoing contacts exist at all levels – official and ministerial – to solve that problem and others.]