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Food Standards Act 1999

Section 32: Modification of this Act

121.This section provides powers to modify the provisions of the Act and is intended to deal with circumstances where the need for change arises from experience of operating a UK body in the area of food safety and standards, where responsibility has been devolved.

122.The Agency is being established with powers in relation to policy areas which have been wholly devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and is therefore appropriate that it should be the shared responsibility of the three devolved authorities and the UK Government (which also in effect represents the English interest). Its establishment coincides with the coming into operation of devolved authorities and legislatures in Scotland and Wales and there is therefore inevitably a degree of uncertainty about how they will chose to exercise their devolved powers in this area. Devolution in Northern Ireland has not yet come into effect in November 1999. Although Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales were consulted formally on the principle of a UK Agency, it is possible that experience will show a need for some adjustment to the constitution of the UK body. As such, alterations to the constitution of the Agency could in principle concern all four of the authorities and it is therefore necessary to have procedures whereby all four bodies are associated with such changes. This section and section 33 provide for such arrangements. They follow the model established in sections 89 and 90 of the Scotland Act 1998 which are concerned with the adaptation and transfer of property for cross-border public authorities.

123.Subsection (1) provides for modification to be made to the Food Standards Act by Order in Council where it is necessary to amend functions exercised by the appropriate authorities (i.e. the Secretary of State and the devolved administrations), Parliament, the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly, or to amend the provisions on the establishment and constitution of the Agency (in particular sections 2 to 5 and Schedules 1, 2 and 4). For example it might, in the light of experience, be necessary to change the arrangements for the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland advisory committees as established by section 5, or to change the number of members of the Agency or the experience which between them they must have.

124.The Order in Council route is chosen because it is clear that for the Agency to function successfully as a UK body it will depend on co-operation between the four authorities. Thus any amendments to its constitution, or the relationship between the different authorities in the UK, will need to be jointly agreed in each part of the UK. The Order in Council procedure is the most appropriate procedure for allowing each legislature formally to consider and consent to such changes.

125.Subsection (2) elaborates on the matters which can be included in an Order in Council made under this provision.

126.Subsection (6) provides for the Agency to be consulted before any amendments are made.

127.It should be noted that while section 32 provides a procedure for altering the Agency’s constitution, it would not prevent Parliament making changes by a further Act. To the extent it is within their competence under the Scotland and Northern Ireland Acts, the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly will also be able to make changes to the arrangements in the Act using Acts passed by them.

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