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.
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 200506. The targets are designed to drive further improvements to the agency's performance and are as follows:
This is a composite target (theoretical maximum 100) measuring the timeliness of the turnaround of safety critical data, the quality of the data handling processes and the safety risk associated with the worldwide chart series.
The Defence Customer uses Tasking Authorisation Forms to define the products and services it requires; this target (theoretical maximum 100) relates to the UKHO's performance against these requirements.
Sustain threshold level performance at each of the key stages 1, 2 and 3 by matching national (England) achievement in all subject elements and exceeding it by 3 per cent. in a majority of the 12 subject elements.
At the higher levels of attainment (i.e. level 3+ at Key Stage 1, level 5+ at Key Stage 2, level 6+ at Key Stage 3) match national level of performance in 7 of the 12 subject elements in 2005, rising to 8 in 2006.
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
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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.
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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.
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.