§ Miss McIntosh
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the price of inspection for small and medium-sized abattoirs. 
§ Ms Stuart
[holding answer 9 May 2001]: The Meat Inspection Charges Task Force was established by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in April 2000 to look at the issue of meat inspection charges and to consider alternative approaches to charging that would help to alleviate the burden of inspection charges on small and medium-sized abattoirs and cutting plants.
In its report, the taskforce recommended that the Government should contribute to the costs of meat inspection in Great Britain. The taskforce recommended moving away from charging for meat inspections on an hourly basis and that, instead, all abattoirs and cutting plants should be charged the lower of either the standard (headage) charges laid down in EU Directive 96/43/EEC or their actual inspection costs. The taskforce estimated that adopting this recommendation would result in a cost to Government of up to £19 million in 2001–02 and each year thereafter.
We accepted the taskforce recommendation and announced new, additional financial support in the context of the publication of the Rural White Paper on 28 November 2000 to secure the future of small and medium-sized abattoirs.
Following consultation, a new charging system based on the taskforce recommendation was introduced by the FSA on 2 April 2001. Under the new system, the majority of meat plants will be paying substantially reduced meat inspection charges.