Directions Relating to Breach of Duty or to International Obligations

Part of Orders of the Day — Food Standards Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:30 pm on 8th November 1999.

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Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 11:30 pm, 8th November 1999

The Bill must be right in addressing the devolution issue. I should simply like to challenge the Minister on Lords amendment No. 16, which would amend clause 24. Clause 24 itself refers to clause 23, and the fact that the powers would be given to Scottish Ministers if it appeared to them that there has been a serious failure by the Agency …to comply with section 23". Clause 23(2) itself states that The Agency, in considering whether or not to exercise any power, or the manner in which to exercise any power, shall take into account (among other things)— (a) the nature and magnitude of any risks to public health". That provision brings us immediately to the current crisis of confidence over the Government's policy on beef on the bone. If devolution does what the Bill says, if the arrangements are separate for each country and if the Lords amendment gives Scottish Ministers competence to consider whether there has been a serious failure by the Agency to take into account the nature and magnitude of those risks, what will happen after the agency is created?

Now, despite the advice that he has received from the chief medical officer, the English Minister refuses to lift that absurd ban, on the basis that his Scottish counterpart says that he does not think it safe for Scots to eat beef on the bone. That is the price of devolution.

12.15 am

It seems odd that the Bill establishes, and a Government amendment reaffirms, Scottish competence to deal with such issues and to take into account the nature and magnitude of the risks to public health, which is the very core of the beef on the bone issue, while what the Government are actually doing—or rather, failing to do, which is to lift the absurd ban—shows a total disregard of the principles in the Bill.