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Baroness Byford: My Lords, although it is not my duty to do so, I thank the Minister for his response.

8 Feb 2001 : Column 1366

Perhaps I may ask him about the timetable. He said that the consultations will finish on 14th February and that the Government will then need time to respond to them. Will this have any implications for the proposed draft statutory instrument, or will that go ahead?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is clearly important that the new system of charges comes in as early as possible. The intention is to bring it in on 2nd April to give effect to the benefits it will bring to the industry. We intend to speed on with the consultation process, to ensure that the right decisions are reached in the way that I have suggested, and that the new system will come in on 2nd April.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, does he recall that, during the debate on the Food Standards Bill, over and over again we asked for a proper appeals system to be set up? We were informed that there was provision for this in the Food Safety Act 1990. Why is it so difficult for a very simple arbitration system to be introduced? One man, one contender, another contender; the man in the middle decides between the two--and what he decides is binding, as Maclean recommended. Why is it proving so difficult when it is essential in view of the stressful nature of work in the industry and the history of confrontation between the two groups of people? Why can it not be brought in at the same time as the statutory instrument?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the word "arbitration" has certain implications in law. That is why this was not produced at the same time as the statutory instrument. I hope that I have reassured noble Lords that, whatever the conclusion of the consultation process, there will be an independent system of appeal in which the industry can have confidence.

        House adjourned at thirteen minutes before ten o'clock.

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