19 May 2005 : Column 5WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 19 May 2005


Finance Bill

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): It is expected that the Finance Bill will be published on Thursday 26 May. Explanatory notes on the Bill's clauses will be available in the Vote Office (and the Printed Paper Office, House of Lords) and the Libraries of both Houses on that day. Members of the public will be able to obtain copies of the explanatory notes from the Stationery Office's bookshops. These will also be available on the Treasury's website http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk.


United Kingdom Hydrographic Office

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): Key targets have been set for the chief executive of the UK Hydrographic Office for the financial year 2005–06. The targets are designed to drive further improvements to the agency's performance and are as follows:

Key Target 1. Safety

Key Target 2. Defence

Key Target 3. Customer Satisfaction

Key Target 4. Wider Markets

Key Target 5. Finance

Key Target 6. Efficiency


19 May 2005 : Column 6WS

Service Children's Education

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): The chief executive of service children's education has been set the following key targets for 2005–06.

Key Target 1

Key Target 2

Key Target 3

Key Target 4

Key Target 5

Key Target 6


Food Products (Para Red)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Caroline Flint): I have been advised by the Food Standards Agency that on 5 May the agency issued advice to consumers not to eat foods that had inadvertently been contaminated with an illegal dye, para red. This advice follows previous action taken by the Food Standards Agency to ensure the withdrawal of
19 May 2005 : Column 7WS
a range of products containing chilli powder since July 2003 which had been contaminated with a different illegal dye, sudan I.

Para red, like sudan I, could contribute to an increased risk of cancer. At the levels found the risk is likely to be very small however it is sensible to avoid eating any more foods contaminated with this substance.

In addition to the list of affected products published on 5 May, further updates were published on 6 and 11 May bringing the total number to 69. The agency acted with all possible speed to inform consumers which products were affected so retailers and consumers could act on this advice. All of the products have now been withdrawn.

Food companies have a legal obligation to remove from sale products that do not meet food safety requirements and to inform the Food Standards Agency and local authorities, and advise consumers about withdrawal.

The contamination of spices with illegal dyes is a European-wide issue. The Food Standards Agency has therefore been pressing for a harmonised approach to this problem to be adopted throughout the European Union. A meeting of the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health was held on 10 May in Brussels to specifically discuss the issue of illegal dyes. A number of initiatives were agreed. These include a review by the European Food Safety Authority of the toxicological data available on para red and other similar dyes, and the establishment of a working group to develop testing methods for these substances and make these available to all Member States. The United Kingdom will co-ordinate this working group. The European Commission made clear at the meeting that the presence of these dyes in food is not acceptable at any level.
19 May 2005 : Column 8WS

The Food Standards Agency has also announced that it is setting up a task force on incidents. The aim of this task force is to consider ways of strengthening controls in the food chain in order to reduce the likelihood of future contamination incidents occurring and to identify the most effective ways of managing such incidents if they occur. The task force will report to the board of the Food Standards Agency.

The Food Standards Agency also plans to set up a separate, independent, review of the circumstances and actions surrounding the sudan I incident itself. This will not take place however until investigations by local authorities of some of the key players involved, which are currently underway, have been completed and any resulting prosecutions concluded, so as not to prejudice the outcomes. This may delay the start of the review for up to 18 months.


Detained Terrorist Suspects

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): I have today arranged for copies of Dr. Bill Norris's annual report for 2004 to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I welcome Dr Norris's report and will consider it carefully. I will respond as soon as possible.


Legislative Programme

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Alistair Darling): I have placed in the Libraries of the House a note summarising the likely application to Scotland of the Bills announced on 17 May.