Examination of Witnesses(Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY 1999
and THE RT
80. Dream on.
(Mr Rooker) In respect of the set-up costs element
it would be reasonable to expect that but I cannot possibly judge
what the running cost changes will be and any other decisions
in three years' time. My role, in so far as it is, is to put myself
out of work as Food Safety Minister to do all I can to get this
Agency set up and get it running in the way we have planned subject
to arrangements. I cannot possibly forecast what the position
will be like in three years and, with respect, I do not think
anyone else can.
81. You are expecting local authorities
to be responsible for the collection?
(Mr Rooker) That is right.
82. This is another duty on local authorities,
officers will have to spend time, even though you are saying it
is easy to collect, easy to administer, they have got all the
information, they have still got to go through the process of
collecting this levy. What adjustments have we given to local
authority budgets for the extra officers for doing this?
(Mr Rooker) None whatsoever because we do not
need to. They are legally required to keep their registers up
to date every year. They will collect the money as a charge for
registration and if the money is not paid the premises will be
de-registered which puts them under all kinds of pressures for
food safety legislation. The local authorities will have the cost
of collection met from the money they collect themselves, so there
will be no add on for local authorities. They do not need any
extra money, the cost of collection will be met from what they
get from the levy, from the £90 if that is the figure, in
addition to which over and above that there will be a sum of money,
which we have not yet decided or consulted about, which they can
retain as an additional resource for the kind of enforcement activities
they are carrying out now.
83. Can I just lastly ask you about some
of the exemptions. What about school canteens or the Friends of
Lydney Hospital sandwich trolley that goes round to visitors and
things like that? Also, if we look at the incidents of where there
have been problems in the food chain it is often when voluntary
bodies put on some kind of event, a buffet evening, because they
are not necessarily qualified people in handling food and they
are not going to be paying anything, are they?
(Mr Rooker) I know this is difficult when it looks
as though we are over-regulating and we are actually saying in
some areas we are not. If your organisation is registered under
the enforcement regulations for food safety you are covered. The
trolley may not be covered but the canteen and the kitchen in
the hospital probably would be, I would certainly hope so. WI
catering, child minders, places where the main activity is not
foodnot foodbut where biscuits and cakes are served,
such as a hairdressers, for example, they would not be covered.
They are not covered now, they are not required to be registered,
so we do not have to make an exemption, they are not even included
in the first place. I have heard all kinds of people being interviewed
saying "this is terrible on my business", with respect,
people like that are not covered. Religious ceremonies, places
supplying food or drink in the course of religious ceremonies,
they are currently exempted from the requirement to register,
they are not included. Of those who are required to register,
the exemptions will be those supplying wrapped confectionary and
crisps, maybe garage forecourts, but if they go in for selling
sandwiches they are going to be caught because that is food.
84. Minister, could I ask you have you consulted
with the Treasury on this matter?
(Mr Rooker) Constantly.
85. Will this levy be allowable against
tax? Will it be tax allowable?
(Mr Rooker) It is a business cost. It is like
any other business cost.
86. It would?
(Mr Rooker) I am not an accountant. It is a business
cost, therefore it is part of your outgoings. It does not come
off your top line. With respect, it is £90 a year. It is
a business cost, therefore it is part of the business costs.
87. Would not the Minister of Public Health
say this is an Agency being set up to protect the public and therefore
there is a public responsibility to pay for it? Why should it
be industry who pays for it? Why should the industry have to pay
for it? They should only have to pay for the function.
(Tessa Jowell) Because the industry has a very
clear investment in the safety of food. We are quite clear that
this is a contribution that the industry should make.
88. Ministers, could I thank you both very
much indeed for coming along to this morning's first meeting of
this Committee. Could I just add a little rider. There may be
one or two things that the Committee would want to take up with
you both in writing and quite possibly, given that we have turned
Select Committees around and brought the Ministers first, we are
not saying that we will not bring you back again to this Committee
to give further evidence if necessary.
(Mr Rooker) Absolutely. We are at the Committee's
disposal at any time during its sittings. We understand the pressure
you are under and if you want us back in the middle or at the
end, no problem whatsoever.
Chairman: Thank you.