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Baroness Amos: My Lords, development education is a key part of the strategy and the interdepartmental working group includes representatives from that department.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, do the Government intend to continue supplying large quantities of aid to African governments which are engaged in military adventures in the Congo, or will they seek to cut back on aid if those activities continue?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, as noble Lords are aware, the Government have pursued a foreign policy with an ethical dimension which spreads the values of human rights and democracy. We have been committed to that since we came into power. We have, among other things, taken the lead in establishing, for example, the International Criminal Court and the EU exports code of conduct. I hesitate to mention specific countries in answer to the noble Lord's question.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, has the interdepartmental committee given consideration to the strategic role of local government in promoting democracy and development at local level? What ongoing support is being provided by the Department for International Development for UK local government to enable it to undertake technical partnerships with local government partners in developing countries?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the role of local government is not a matter which has been specifically discussed at the interdepartmental group. However, my noble friend will be aware that partnership is a central part of the strategy in the White Paper. The Government are committed to raising awareness of development issues across the country. As part of that process local authorities and local authority associations have been involved in the development policy fora at both regional and national level.

In addition, the DfID is committed to developing country strategy papers with its partner countries and those are being discussed more widely both within the UK and within our partner countries. Country strategy papers examine, for example, the nature and potential of partnerships with local government, civil societies, other donors and the private sector.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, as the noble Baroness failed to answer my question in any respect, perhaps I should ask it again more bluntly: are we to continue subsidising war in the Congo?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I repeat that the Government have made it clear that their foreign and development policies do have an ethical dimension. It is inappropriate for me to comment on one country in particular.

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Food Standards Agency: Progress

3 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they are making in setting up the food standards agency.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My Lords, the Government remain committed to setting up a food standards agency. However, I cannot anticipate the Queen's Speech.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I did not expect the Minister to anticipate the contents of the Queen's Speech. However, does the Minister accept that for full public protection it is vital that the new agency has a new range of enforcement powers and that it comes under the Department of Health and not the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? Secondly, in light of the evidence given to the BSE inquiry by former chief medical officers, what definition of "safe" will the agency use?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the details of the proposed food standards agency are set out in full, and in great detail, in the White Paper we published in January. The White Paper envisages that that agency will have its responsibility transferred directly to the Department of Health. That will meet the essential prerequisite on page 2 of the White Paper that food safety and food health should be separated from the producer side.

Lord Rea: My Lords, can my noble friend say how the groundwork for establishing the food standards agency will be continued and how the strong pressures against it will be countered? Can the present interim food standards unit be upgraded to a commission rather like the predecessor of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority? Will the Minister confirm that there is a move by the food standards unit towards the Department of Health to ensure that the interests of consumers and of producers are separated as the Department of Health is more suited to looking after the interests of consumers?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his question. He has great experience and knowledge in this area. As I said, I cannot anticipate what will be announced about the food standards agency, although I can state that my right honourable friend will be making a statement shortly after the Queen's Speech. My noble friend's suggestion about ensuring greater separation and the transfer of interim arrangements into the Department of Health is interesting. I cannot comment on it, but I shall bring it to the attention of my right honourable friend.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in every activity in life there is an element of risk? Will he ask those who are to form the food

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standards agency to bear in mind that if we have sterile food--in other words, if it is totally germ-free--we shall be introducing a risk because our biological systems will not have had the priming which protects us from normal germs?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, what the noble Countess says about risk is, indeed, true. It is a most complex subject, of particular relevance to food safety, and one to which we have given considerable attention. I shall certainly draw her suggestion to the attention of my colleagues.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, I do not want to press the Minister to tell us anything that he thinks may appear in the Queen's Speech. However, does he agree with the perception that there is a conflict of interest between consumers, who desire to see ever more rigorous standards of food safety, and the agriculture industry, which is anxious to resist any further controls or regulations on the way in which it works? Does the Minister believe that there is such a conflict of interest? If so, has he anything to tell us about what channels of communication the Government are setting up to overcome that problem?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the Government propose to set up the food standards agency as an independent body--and as independent of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food--precisely because of that perceived conflict of interest. That does not mean that we accept all that has been said about agriculture's interests. In our consultation, virtually all parts of the food industry gave tremendous support to the idea of an independent agency, realising that confidence in our food is good for the industry. I believe that that message has been conveyed to the agriculture industry itself.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords--

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords--

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, this is not a happy experience. Of course, I am in the hands of the House, but as we have had 29 minutes of Question Time and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has asked a supplementary question, perhaps my noble friend, Lord Davies, may ask his question.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the definition of "safe" can be established only when we have determined the specific dangers that have to be removed?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, that is, indeed, true. It is a complex issue and a complex definition. That is why my department and the Department of Health, which have worked jointly on this matter, have many scientific advisory committees to give us expert advice. Personally, I do not believe that it will ever be possible to have an absolute and reliable definition of "risk" or "safety".

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Business

Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on Iraq. That will be followed by my noble friend Lord Donoughue who, again with the leave of the House, will repeat a Statement on aid to agriculture.

Perhaps I may also say a word about the debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure. The debate is not subject to any official time limit but in view of the important business to follow, including the two Statements and the debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, I hope that all who take part in the debate will be brief and will focus only on the subject matter of the amendments tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

Procedure of the House: Select Committee Report

3.8 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

For the convenience of the House perhaps I may add a word to what the Government Chief Whip has said about the form of the debate. As soon as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has moved the first amendment standing in his name and has spoken immediately afterwards to the second amendment, I hope that your Lordships will feel free, while bearing in mind what the Government Chief Whip has said, to speak on any aspect of the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure there and then. That will avoid the need for several debates, the need for repetition and, in particular, the need for more than one further speech from myself. Of course, the noble Earl will then have his right to reply on his two amendments.

As your Lordships will have noticed, the Fourth Report from the Select Committee on Procedure is a little unusual. It enters into a lot of detail about item 1, relating to the formal dress of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. That is because the committee was divided on the two matters of the dress of the Lord Chancellor and of his speaking from the Government Front Bench. Robust views were expressed in the committee--


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