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Food Hygiene Education

10. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): What discussions his Department has had with education authorities regarding food hygiene education in schools. [98846]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Ms Joyce Quin): The Department is collaborating very closely with the Health Education

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Authority and others on the development of food hygiene teaching resources, which are being supplied free to all UK primary and secondary schools.

Helen Jackson: When I was at school, we had domestic science once a week--that is, the girls did. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the potential new millennium nightmares is of a generation living from cradle to grave on pre-packaged, pre-cooked meals? Does she agree that her answer shows that the Government are working in a joined-up manner to promote healthy living and food safety, in the wake of the disastrous scares--including those involving salmonella, E. coli and BSE--of the past few years?

Ms Quin: I thank my hon. Friend for her question and her comments. She must have gone to a more enlightened school than I did, because I had to choose between domestic science and Latin. Domestic science was not compulsory, but it would have been a good thing. [Interruption.] I am not sure that either my Latin or my domestic science is up to standard.

I strongly endorse my hon. Friend's comments about the awareness of hygiene and fresh food issues. The programme that we have introduced--and especially the efforts of my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker)--will be important in bringing to schools, especially secondary schools, varied and valuable information about food hygiene and related issues.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Late last year the European Union suspended the use of zinc bacitracin in animal feed, which has led to the wholly unwelcome consequences of increases in the incidence of necrotic enteritis and cholangiohepatitis in poultry and--with implications for food safety and children--to farmers having to turn to the use of amoxycillin and penicillin to keep their poultry free of those--

Madam Speaker: Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman has been keen to get in on questions that relate to the subject that he is speaking about, but this question concerns food hygiene education in schools.

Mr. Blunt: I believe it is relevant.

Madam Speaker: I am not sure that it is, and that is the point that I am making. I would be grateful if we could continue with food hygiene in schools.

Mr. Blunt: Is the increased use of penicillin and amoxycillin in poultry as a result of the Government's policy a good thing for food hygiene in schools and, if not--

Madam Speaker: Order. That was not a good try, so we will find somebody else.

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Common Agricultural Policy

11. Mr. David Borrow (South Ribble): What assessment he has made of the annual cost of the common agricultural policy to (a) consumers and (b) taxpayers in the UK. [98847]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Elliot Morley): The cost of the CAP in 1998 was £6.7 billion to consumers and £3.4 billion to taxpayers, equivalent in total to around £3.30 per person per week.

Mr. Borrow: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that the existing production-based support system under the CAP is bad for consumers because it means that we pay excessive prices? Is it not also bad for the taxpayer, who is paying those sums for the CAP? Does my hon. Friend agree that it fails to meet the Government's policy objectives because it does not support the farmers in most need of support, especially those in upland and other marginal land? Is there not a growing consensus in favour of a reform of the CAP that would move it away from production-based subsidies towards a system that met social objectives?

Mr. Morley: I strongly agree. We have made some progress with Agenda 2000, which has reduced costs to consumers by about £1 billion. Clearly, however, there is much more to be done. We believe that we must move away from production-based support--which increases costs to consumers, distorts markets to the disadvantage of farmers and does not always help those in most need--to more broadly based support that would assist agri-environmental programmes. We think that a broader, rurally based policy would be more beneficial for the rural economy--and, in the longer term, for farmers.


The Solicitor-General was asked--

Crown Prosecution Service (Complaints)

29. Mr. David Kidney (Stafford): What changes he intends to make to the Crown Prosecution Service's complaints procedure. [98866]

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Ross Cranston): The Crown Prosecution Service has a three-tier complaints procedure which is accessible and well publicised and ensures that a full and fair investigation takes place. It is speedy and ensures that when a complaint is found to be justified, prompt action can be taken. The CPS complaints procedure complies with the Government's service first standards. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that last year the CPS in the Staffordshire area achieved a 90 per cent. response rate within 10 days of a complaint being received--better than the national average.

Mr. Kidney: I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Yes, I am aware that the CPS in Staffordshire is good at dealing with complaints, but would it be fair to say that at the national level its attitude has been a trifle defensive? Does he agree that complaints should be

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viewed positively, as part of the management information that any organisation needs to improve its service? I hasten to add that I would say the same about people who make other comments, including compliments. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the CPS should change its attitude towards making use of the information that comes from the public in those forms?

The Solicitor-General: I think that the record is good, but it can be improved. As a result of the changes in the inspection arrangements, the inspector will examine the complaints procedure and ensure that it is up to standard. I take my hon. Friend's other point that complaints can be used positively. The complaints made by victims and witnesses underline and are central to our concerns.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): In view of the public pronouncements of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is the head of the CPS, and those of the Attorney-General, the noble and learned Lord Williams, about the damaging effect of the Government's proposals on jury trial, to which tier of the complaints system will the Solicitor-General go? Is what the Government are doing part of a unified policy, or is their policy on the jury system all at sea?

The Solicitor-General: I am not sure that I understood what that question was about. Inasmuch as it was a question about what the DPP said--I have seen the transcript of his interview in The Times--my answer is that he did not condemn the Government's proposals. He gave a dispassionate account of the jury system in England and Wales. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, our changes have been introduced to improve the system, there will be an appeal mechanism, which we introduced as a result of consultation, and the higher judiciary support the changes.

CPS (Performance)

30. Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): If he will make a statement on the current performance of the Crown Prosecution Service. [98867]

The Solicitor-General: During the year ending September 1999, the Crown Prosecution Service secured convictions in respect of 9,700--no, 9,000, or rather, that figure should be 972,518--defendants in magistrates courts, amounting to--[Interruption.] Let me continue. That means that 98.3 per cent. of defendants had their cases proceed to a hearing. Convictions were also secured in respect of a further 67,509 defendants in the Crown court, amounting to 88.5 per cent. of hearings.

Mr. Paterson: I am most grateful for that muddled answer. The Government propose to take away the British citizen's ancestral right to trial by jury, ostensibly in the name of efficiency and modernity. How much money will be saved for the Crown Prosecution Service?

The Solicitor-General: These changes are not being introduced primarily with financial considerations in mind. The figures that I read out were not muddled at all, but demonstrate that the CPS achieves a very high conviction rate: even among contested cases, 73.5 per cent. achieve convictions in magistrates courts. I remind

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the hon. Gentleman of the changes that we have introduced since 1997 to join up the criminal justice system. Under the previous Government, the different agencies in the system operated separately. We are joining them up, and the system is operating more efficiently.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): How are we to measure the performance of the Crown Prosecution Service in the treatment of the case of the so-called Lord Archer, who now stands accused of perverting the course of justice? Surely the CPS has a role in dealing with such matters. When will a statement be made?

The Solicitor-General: In every case, it is for the police to investigate matters. Once an investigation is made, the matter will come to the CPS which, of course, provides advice to the police if requested. I am sure that that is happening in the case to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): I was a little surprised that the Solicitor-General's comments on the performance of the CPS contained not a word about the speed at which the service is bringing people to trial. The Labour party election manifesto insisted that people would be brought to trial more quickly. Are young people being fast tracked by the CPS? How is the service performing under this Government?

The Solicitor-General: The hon. Gentleman refers to one of the Government's five key election pledges, on which we have achieved a great deal. Before this Government came to office, the national average for bringing persistent young offenders to trial was 142 days. That figure is coming down very substantially. We have said that we will reduce it to 71 days, but in some areas we have in fact achieved better than that.

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