31 July 1997
Consumers on BSE committee

CONSUMER representatives are to have seats on the BSE committee and other expert committees advising the proposed new Food Standards Agency, junior agriculture minister Lord Donoughue disclosed today.

He told peers, ahead of publication later today of the Governments plans for the agency: “Lay representatives will have an important role to play in the expert committees and we will be considering this further as plans for the agency are developed.”

Lord Donoughues announcement was welcomed by past and present chairmen of the National Consumer Council.

Tory Baroness Wilcox, the current chairman, said the previous system had “caused us so much trouble in the past”. And a past chairman, Tory ex-minister Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes, added: “A modicum of common sense is worth a great deal of expertise.”

She said food nutritional labelling was often “unintelligible”.

Lord Donoughue said openness and transparency would be among the principal criteria of the new agency. There would be lay members, to be appointed by the end of the year, on the veterinary products committee and the advisory committee on pesticides.

“SEAC [the spongiform encephalopathy committee] is looking actively also. and I would hope that by the end of the year all seven committees will have lay representatives,” he told peers.

He said there would be a White Paper on the agency in the autumn, followed by consultation, and legislation “as soon as parliamentary time is available”.

Lord Donoughue agreed to look into a suggestion from Tory frontbencher Lord Lucas that the minutes of the agency, and evidence submitted to it, should be published.

Andrew Evans, PA News