Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that there are periods during the cycle of a crop of trees when it is totally appropriate that the public should be given access but that there are other periods when it is inappropriate, particularly during felling and the early stages of the growth of the trees? During the growth period, which is much more than 20 years, there is an opportunity for the public to establish rights of way across the land. Does he agree that it is high time that the Government instituted revisions to the law relating to access to land, particularly forestry land?

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, we, the Forestry Commission, all the other public sector agencies and the private sector take a very close interest in managing public access. It is of great benefit to many millions of people, although it carries some costs especially in terms of management. There are also costs in terms of the environment itself--to either habitat or species. Generally, the Government believe in encouraging and increasing public access. Now, for the very first time, we are actually increasing woodland access. What is more, we are increasing it in Great Britain in the areas where it is most needed.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, the House will be glad to know that the Government are anxious to increase public access. The Minister will be aware of the fact that in Scotland over the years hikers and walkers have had great benefit from access to forestry land and the hills generally. They are also the most fervent protectors of the land. If they see anyone desecrating land in any way they are the first people to

4 Jun 1996 : Column 1158

stamp it out. Can the Minister say whether there is easy access to the places where forestry land has been sold off? Can he say how many points of access have been preserved? The people with whom I am associated are very keen on walking and hiking. They know their ordnance maps very well. If there is an easy way for them to transfer information, through their clubs, as regards places where they cannot go, that would be a great help. Can the Minister say whether there is access to the land which is for sale?

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, we are currently in discussions with the ordnance survey organisation to identify as usefully as possible those areas of Forestry Commission land where access is available and encouraged. The access agreements for the areas being disposed of are arranged through the local authority. That is a ready source of information. I remind the noble Lord and the House that the private sector is a huge source of access. Over 4,000 private woodland owners have taken benefit of the grants we supply to help them manage better their public access facilities.

Animal Feedstuffs: Listing of Ingredients

3.2 p.m.

Viscount Gage asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will require fuller disclosure of the ingredients used in the manufacture of animal feedstuffs.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the Government welcome the recent announcement that the major feed compounders are to switch to full ingredient listing for most compound feeds. The position is being monitored and further action will be taken, if necessary.

Viscount Gage: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. I believe that UKASTA, which represents the majority of the major compounders, after many years of pleading from the National Farmers Union has agreed to list the ingredients fully on feedstuff packages. But I have learnt since tabling my Question, as the Minister will be aware, that it will shortly become a criminal offence for farmers to possess feedstuffs which contain suspect feed. While this voluntary agreement reached with UKASTA is welcome, does my noble friend agree that it is now time to make the listing of ingredients mandatory?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, my noble kinsman is right. It is an event due to happen once we have put arrangements in place for removing all suspect feed from farms and enabling farmers to clean out their feed stores properly. Whether it will be right to insist on mandatory total ingredient listing at that time or whether we shall rely on farmers wishing to purchase only feeds that list the ingredients or when they can receive satisfactory assurances are matters that we are looking at very carefully.

Lord Carter: My Lords, is the Minister aware that farmers and their organisations have been seeking full

4 Jun 1996 : Column 1159

feed ingredient listing for a very long time? Is he further aware that it has been resisted by a number of the feed manufacturers and that it is only the BSE crisis which has forced a change of heart? Does the Minister agree that if full feed ingredient listing had been in place we would have been able to trace the source and use of the infected feed and deal with the BSE crisis much more quickly and effectively?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I do not believe that it would have made any difference.

Lord Carter: My Lords, then why are they doing it now?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, looking back, farmers were quite happy with the practice of feeding meat and bonemeal to cattle before it was discovered to be dangerous. Once it was discovered to be dangerous, it was banned. Therefore, I do not believe that there is anything that farmers would have gained from knowing what the feed contained. Nonetheless, this is a positive step. It represents at last a recognition by the supermarkets and others that they have a responsibility for the history of the food that ends up on their shelves. I believe that it will encourage them to be much more supportive of the farmers who supply them and to develop a much more co-operative, rather than a confrontational, relationship with them. That will be all to the better for farming and for food in this country.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is believed, as far as it is understood, that scrapie-infected feedstuffs are the principal cause of BSE? Does he also agree that many of the cattle which it is now anticipated will be slaughtered in fact became infected after the ban on scrapie-infected feedstuffs had been imposed? The crux of the matter is that cattle have been infected since the ban and this is the key area. Does the Minister further agree that it would be a strong weapon in the armoury of the British Government in their martial exploits in Brussels if this issue were thoroughly understood? Therefore, I support my noble friend in his Question. I shall be interested to hear the answer.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, as doubtless the House knows, we have published our plan for eradicating BSE. I believe that that plan is available in the Library, from the Ministry of Agriculture and in the Printed Paper Office. Clearly, part of it includes the total elimination of mammalian products from mammalian feed. The reason why that has become necessary and was enforced this year is that it became apparent that the original ban, which was just on feeding such products to ruminants, was not effective because of cross-contamination occurring in mills and farms and other problems. It took a while for us to find out that that was a problem because there is a five-year incubation period with the

4 Jun 1996 : Column 1160

disease. Now we know that there is that problem, we have taken all the necessary action to make sure that there is no further infection from this source.

Party Wall etc. Bill [H.L.]

Report received.

Deregulation (Gun Barrel Proving) Order 1996

3.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 29th April be approved [22nd Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the draft order is concerned with removing the burden imposed by the price control mechanism procedures, maximum charges and time limits currently imposed by gun barrel proving legislation. The proposal has completed the preliminary scrutiny procedures for deregulation orders under the 1994 Act. The Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers of your Lordships' House and the Deregulation Committee of the other place have separately assessed and reported on the proposal. Both committees have indicated that they are content with the draft order as it stands.

The purpose of this order is to amend the Gun Barrel Proof Acts 1868 to 1978 in order to relieve the two proof houses in London and Birmingham of the obligation to seek the agreement of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the alteration of the maximum prices they can charge for proofing or testing of gun barrels. Save in exceptional circumstances, at present such alterations can be made only every five years.

The main effect of the measure will therefore be to give the proof houses the freedom to set their own level of charges. In doing so it will relieve them of the procedural costs associated with applying every five years for a change in the maximum prices they can charge for proofing and the financial exposure they would face if market circumstances changed significantly before they could obtain the necessary approval.

The Government are satisfied that the measure will not reduce the necessary protection for consumers. There is no question of safety standards being affected because those provisions of the Act remain unaltered. As to the possibility of overcharging for gun proving, we consider that the competition which exists between the two proof houses in the United Kingdom, and the further competition represented by proof houses overseas, is sufficient to safeguard against any risk of overcharging. In the light of those factors, it is no surprise that when the department consulted more than 90 bodies about the draft order, all respondents either welcomed the proposal or offered no comments or objections.

4 Jun 1996 : Column 1161

This is a modest and sensible measure which reduces a burden without removing necessary protection. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, that the draft order laid before the House on 29th April be approved [22nd Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].--(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page