Thursday, October 21, 2004

Governance by management not politics - #2

A recent document from the Food Standards Agency, whose primary role may be to be a Food Scare Agency but whose most important task is the implementation of EU legislation and regulation in the UK, is entitled Consolidating and Simplifying EU Food Hygiene Legislation. It tells those who receive information from the FSA that on April 29 of this year a new EU food hygiene legislation was adopted and it will apply from January 1, 2006. That’s it.

The legislation was adopted after various consultations in Brussels and will be implemented by an agency that is not accountable to anyone without any open debate, outside what most people would consider to be the British legislative process. Only those deemed to be interested parties or stakeholders and those who have put themselves on that list know about it. Yet the legislation will be far-reaching and detailed.

In the introduction the FSA scrupulously gives the background:

“In July 2000, the European Commission published a package of five measures to update and consolidate the 17 existing hygiene directives. The package was intended to introduce consistency and clarity throughout the food production chain from 'farm to fork'.”
This far-reaching programme of legislation that will affect the food industry across the European Union has been unrolling for the last four years and will go on doing so until the measures are fully implemented and the relevant businesses will be required to obey them on January 1, 2006.

The programme unrolled regardless of elections in the member countries, regardless of elections to the European Parliament, regardless of the new Commission. And, in case anyone mentions the Council of Ministers and negotiations being done by elected representatives of the various member states, allow me to inform our readers that the negotiation on behalf of the United Kingdom is done by the Food Standards Agency.

There were, of course, consultations on the way. In its document the FSA mentions about half a dozen. Some of our readers may have read an earlier blog on the way consultation has been substituted for political debate and accountable legislation. FSA representatives went back and forth and reported to the stakeholders as they saw fit, explaining that consultations were taken into account but, in the end, EU legislation has to be negotiated by various member states, all of whom have similar unrepresentative representatives at these meetings.

Then what happened?
“After nearly four years of negotiations, which were led by the FSA on behalf of the UK, the texts were adopted on 29 April 2004 and published in the Official Journal (OJ) of the European Union on 30 April 2004. The legislation will apply on 1 January 2006 (except Directive 2002/99 on animal health rules).”
Three extensive and directly applicable Regulations and one Directive will be implemented by the FSA and one Directive – the animal health one – by DEFRA, presumably in the process modifying its own rather oppressive legislation that the ministers forced through Parliament about three years ago.

Democracy? Parliamentary legislation? Accountability? Bah, who needs them? And, incidentally, what are the new Commissioners going to do about all this?

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