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DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY MOVES TO CUT DOWN ON RED TAPE

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The department of health's and the food standards agency's latest moves towards better regulation in food and healt...
The department of health's and the food standards agency's latest moves towards better regulation in food and health were welcomed today by cabinet office minister Mo Mowlam.

She said: 'The government is committed to delivering better regulation, protecting those who are vulnerable but also ensuring that businesses and the public sector are not overburdened by unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape. The changes which the Department of Health have announced today are a move in the right direction and I am grateful to my colleague, Lord Hunt, for his co-operation and support.'

At a meeting of the panel for regulatory accountability, chaired by Mo Mowlam, health minister Lord Hunt agreed;

- subject to responses to consultation, manufacturers of medicinal products and wholesale dealers will no longer have to renew their licences every five years. This will lessen the burden on these businesses but will not affect the powers of the Medicines ControlAgency to take action where it is necessary to protect public health and safety;

- to consult on removing an anomaly whereby NHS Charities have to submit their accounts both to the Charity Commission and the NHS Executive. It is proposed that, in future, accounts will be submitted only to the Charity Commission;

- to move as quickly as possible to amend the terms of service for GPs to allow patient medical records to be maintained in electronic format. The Department of Health are working closely with the General Practitioner Committee to achieve this; and

- to consider the scope for updating legislation on the control of infectious diseases.

The Food Standards Agency is committed to working within the framework of better regulation. Its fundamental duty is to protect public health and consumer interests. The agency is very keen to remove any regulations that are burdensome to industry without having any real benefits for consumers.

The Food Standards Agency is already actively engaged in a number of

initiatives. In particular;

- the chairman, Sir John Krebs, has given his support to the enforcement concordat, which sets out principles and procedures for the fair and balanced enforcement of regulations. This means that the agency will target its activities to provide genuine protection for the public without imposing unnecessary burdens on industry.

Until the agency has formally acceded to the concordat, it is putting the principles into practice in its own enforcement work;

- the agency is pressing for reform of the EU meat hygiene directives and will be encouraging the European Commission to bring forward proposals as quickly as possible;

- it is supporting a review of charges for small abattoirs flowing from the recent review of regulatory burdens on the meat industry;

- it has been active in pressing the European Commission to simplify EU food hygiene directives to reduce the current prescriptive requirements in a way consistent with protecting public health;

- a review of the efficiency of the Meat Hygiene Service is about to be launched; and

- the agency is consulting on proposals to remove existing charges for dairy hygiene inspections in England which would save farmers almost£1m.

Lord Hunt commented: 'The Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency are taking a hard look at the regulations covering the health service, public health, food safety and consumer health. Wherever possible we intend to remove bureaucracy and red tape which gets in the way of service delivery. Protection of public health and safety will always be paramount.'

NOTES

1. The panel for regulatory accountability was set up in December 1999 with a remit to modernise the regulatory system, simplify existing regulation and ease regulatory pressures on business and the public sector.

2. Its membership includes:

Marjorie Mowlam minister for the Cabinet Office

Lord Falconer minister of state, CO

Graham Stringer parliamentary secretary, CO

Stephen Byers secretary of state, DTI

Andrew Smith chief secretary to the Treasury

Christopher Haskins Chair, better regulation task force

David Irwin Chief executive, small business service

3. The Food Standards Agency is a non-ministerial department which is accountable to Parliament through health ministers.

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