Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. A1:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--
.--(1) In this Act “food" includes--
(a) drink;
(b) articles and substances of no nutritional value which are used for human consumption;
(c) chewing gum and other products of a like nature and use; and
(d) articles and substances used as ingredients in the preparation of food or anything falling within this subsection.
(2) In this Act “food" does not include--
(a) live animals or birds, or live fish which are not used for human consumption while they are alive;
(b) fodder or feeding stuffs for animals, birds or fish;
(c) controlled drugs within the meaning of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; or
(d) subject to such exceptions as may be specified in an order made by the Ministers--

12 Oct 1999 : Column CWH2

(i) medicinal products within the meaning of the Medicines Act 1968 in respect of which product licences within the meaning of that Act are for the time being in force; or
(ii) other articles or substances in respect of which such licences are for the time being in force in pursuance of orders under section 104 or 105 of that Act (application of Act to other articles and substances).
(3) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires--
“business" includes the undertaking of a canteen, club, school, hospital or institution, whether carried on for profit or not, and any undertaking or activity carried on by a public or local authority;
“commercial operation", in relation to any food or contact material, means any of the following, namely--
(a) selling, possessing for sale and offering, exposing or advertising for sale;
(b) consigning, delivering or serving by way of sale;
(c) preparing for sale or presenting, labelling or wrapping for the purpose of sale;
(d) storing or transporting for the purpose of sale;
(e) importing and exporting;
and, in relation to any food source, means deriving food from it for the purpose of sale or for purposes connected with sale;
“contact material" means any article or substance which is intended to come into contact with food;
“food business" means any business in the course of which commercial operations with respect to food or food sources are carried out;
“food premises" means any premises used for the purposes of a food business;
“food source" means any growing crop or live animal, bird or fish from which food is intended to be derived (whether by harvesting, slaughtering, milking, collecting eggs or otherwise);
“premises" includes any place, any vehicle, stall or moveable structure and, for such purposes as may be specified in an order made by the Ministers, any ship or aircraft of a description so specified.
(4) The reference in subsection (3) above to preparing for sale shall be construed, in relation to any contact material, as a reference to manufacturing or producing for the purpose of sale.

The noble Baroness said: I am very grateful to everyone concerned for the fact that my first amendment has been accepted for debate, because there was a slight misunderstanding about the tabling of it. While I am saying a few words of thanks I should like to thank the Minister for her meeting with us and her civil servants last night, which we found very helpful. I should also like to record my thanks to those in the Public Bill Office. Other people like myself have experienced great difficulty in bringing forward amendments in time because of the fact that the Second Reading took place at the very end of last Session since when the House has not been sitting. I am most grateful to everyone for being so forbearing.

At Second Reading I brought to your Lordships' attention the fact that this Bill does not include a definition of food. In his reply the noble Lord, the Chief Whip, stated that because the definition of food is set out in the Food Safety Act 1990 there was no need to repeat it. We ask the Government to consider this again. The food standards agency is a completely new body, and while we understand that there is no

12 Oct 1999 : Column CWH3

obligation that a definition should be stated, we feel that it is worthwhile so to do. It is all of a page and a half, and anyone seeking information about food or referring to the agency would have that definition at their fingertips rather than having to go back and find past Acts, in particular the 1990 Act.

This is not an obscure piece of legislation. This will be an Act that many people and organisations have been urging on the Government for some years. The ordinary household shopper is possibly more interested in the food standards agency than even their tax bill. It is surely reasonable to provide them, within the Act, with the definition of food under which the agency will work. I beg to move.

Viscount Thurso: Perhaps I may begin with an apology. I should very much have liked to speak at Second Reading but I was unable to do so and I look forward to taking part in the rest of the proceedings on the Bill. Perhaps I may also, on behalf of my own team, say thank you to the Minister for the extremely helpful meeting which we had yesterday. It helped to promote matters, and one hopes will be useful for the rest of our proceedings.

Broadly speaking, we are supportive of the thrust which the amendment seeks to address. However, I should like to ask one or two specific questions of the Minister. First--this is purely for my own benefit--given that food is defined as including chewing gum and other products of a like nature, surely that would also fit into the definition under paragraph (b),

    “articles and substances of no nutritional value"

Secondly, what about vitamins and mineral supplements? If one looks at the definitions as they are set out in the amendment, they do not fall under paragraph (b) because they certainly have some nutritional value, they do not appear to be chewing gum and they are not necessarily used in connection with food. So I wonder whether, in addressing that, the Minister might be able to enlighten me on those two points.

The Earl of Selborne: I wonder whether I might also thank the Minister very much for the session we had yesterday afternoon, which helped enormously to set the scene for these proceedings. I was particularly grateful to her for arranging for me to be sent a note on responsibility for water, because this is one of the issues of definition with which I am sure one day courts will have to grapple. As I understand from the most helpful note I was given, water remains the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions until it is put into the food process. In other words, it could be through irrigation, it could be by putting it into a bottle of water. So at some moment, which is quite difficult to follow at times, the water moves from the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to the agency.

12 Oct 1999 : Column CWH4

However one sets out the definition, the amendment does not address this issue. Perhaps it is not necessary but I should like an assurance from the Minister that the courts will have no difficulty in determining when water is food and when it is not. I have to admit that, in spite of the very helpful note, I still feel that there is plenty of room for confusion.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): I am grateful to noble Lords who have expressed their thanks for yesterday's meeting. I am very conscious that we have been carrying out some of the processes around the Bill in a somewhat telescoped timeframe from what would be normal, and I recognise that this has caused some difficulties. I hope that the process of scrutiny within the Moses Room will make it easier to join up some of the gaps and come against some of those difficulties.

I quite understand why the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has suggested the amendment. It is important to have a proper understanding of what is meant by food in order to appreciate the area in which the agency will act. Equally, I appreciate the concern to have a proper understanding of what is meant by water and who is responsible for the quality of water. However, I believe that the amendment is unnecessary and might even create confusion. It is unnecessary because, as my noble friend the Government Chief Whip said at Second Reading, the provision is taken directly from the Food Safety Act 1990 and Clause 36 of the Bill makes perfectly clear that the definitions from the 1990 Act apply in this case.

Moreover, unfortunately the text of the amendment does not take into account some subsequent changes to Section 1 made since the 1990 Act and, therefore, will cause some confusion as there will be slightly differing definitions on the statute book.

Overall, however, it is important to bear in mind that the agency will operate within the existing framework of food safety legislation and should, therefore, rely on the existing statutes wherever possible. Generally, the Food Safety Act is regarded to have worked well over the past 10 years. The Bill sets up a new organisational structure for the food standards agency. It is important that the first clause of the Bill should state very clearly what the purpose of that agency is as Clause 1 does at present. It does not change the basis of the legislation of the Food Safety Act and, therefore, it is not necessary to bring forward a definition of “food" within the context of the Bill.

Since yesterday afternoon's meeting, I have put together, as I promised, a short note explaining some of the definitions in the Bill showing where they are made, and in the 1990 Act. Although this clearly does not form part of the Bill or of the explanatory material, we do have copies available. If Members of the Committee would find that helpful, we can let them have copies of those definitions. Of course, once you see a definition, it leads you down certain byways, and I have to say to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that my first question was about chewing gum when I saw the definition, just as his was. The answer, as I understand it, is that chewing gum and other products

12 Oct 1999 : Column CWH5

are not ingested and therefore not consumed, as in subsection(b), but it was necessary that they should be governed by the Food Safety Act, and that was the reason for making specific reference to them.

I hope that on that basis noble Lords, having seen the definitions that are available and the references back to the Food Safety Act, will feel reassured that there is clarity as to what is meant by food in this Act and that it is not necessary to repeat the definition--particularly one that is not completely in line with that which is now governed by the Food Safety Act.

I can say to the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, that we do not believe that the courts would have any difficulty on definitions of water. The framework for regulating the water supply will not be changed in any way by this Bill. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page