THE WAY FORWARD

Stuart Roberts seems to have realised, at last, that radical change is the only way forward in bringing meat hygiene into the 21st century. Good! But Mr Roberts should bear in mind that his predecessors - and many other industry bodies - at first welcomed the Meat Hygiene Service with open arms.

And he needs to remember that 'consultation' means different things to different people. For

example, government agencies think consultation involves briefing the opposition on matters that have already been decided.

There are warning signs that the Food Standards Agency will follow this course when implementing the Tierney Report. The remarkable idea of 'transforming' the Meat Hygiene Service is justified by ­using many of the outdated and unscientific arguments put forward by the meat inspectors and their trade unions.

Meat inspectors do an important job, but in fact are only assistants to veterinary enforcement officials. It is this strange 'officer class' that wields power and is the real source of our troubles.

Above all, we must remember that in the past UNISON has used strike action to frustrate moves to end the present arrangements for employing meat inspectors. This is the reality and we will need more than good intentions to put any 'consultations' on a realistic footing.

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