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Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for that very full reply. I shall pause now.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 4.7 to 4.17 p.m.]

Baroness Byford: I thank the noble Minister for her response and for the trouble she has taken, and I thank other noble Lords who spoke in the debate.

I should like to raise a couple of points, but I promise I shall not take long. Let me take to task the noble Lord, Lord Desai. My suggestion of labelling was certainly not to be protectionist, because I am well aware that this would be viewed as such by some. The truth of the matter is that, taking the situation

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with pigs and pork, pig farmers are having to produce to different standards and they are struggling to make ends meet. Production here has decreased, but 18 per cent more is coming in from abroad. I am not being protectionist in any way; I am just trying to make Members of the Committee aware that there are practical implications to certain aspects. Labelling would help. It would not stop produce coming in from abroad and it is right that goods should come in from abroad--but the consumers, the buyers, ought to be able to make that choice. At the moment, they cannot do that.

I propose to come back at Report stage with something much simpler. Although I was very grateful for the contribution of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick, I am not looking to tie things down so tightly. I hope to achieve something that allows us to have some kind of British kitemark on our products, which will ultimately help the purchasers. I am not seeking to be protectionist in any way, because I do not believe in that.

I have two further points. One is in regard to GM labelling, about which the Minister spoke. The issue that worries me is that we have a requirement for restaurants and people who sell food to display a notice stating whether the food is GM-free or not. All that is happening is that people are putting up a notice stating “This may contain", which is not hugely helpful. A negative denial does not solve a problem. I was therefore trying to be flexible, while giving recognition to standards, in particular the risk issue raised by my noble friend Lord Selborne. It is important that we should take that point on board. I accept the Minister's chide at my red wine remark, which was a little wide of the mark, and I am well aware that it would be a health rather than a labelling implication.

I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. This is an issue which the general public will be glad we have aired. I hope that, when we speak to this again, we will come to a slightly closer understanding. I beg to leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [General functions in relation to animal feedingstuffs]:

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 29:

Page 4, line 7, after (“feedingstuffs") insert (“and pesticides and veterinary medicines")

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to extend the remit of the agency in Clause 9 beyond animal feedingstuffs to pesticides and veterinary medicines. An example of animal feedingstuffs included within the clause would be something like growth promoters which themselves contain antibiotics. Clearly that is something well within the remit of the agency. However, it is a matter of considerable concern that they are not only subject to UK scrutiny but also to that of the EU. A number of decisions have been taken by EU institutions with regard to growth promoters.

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Veterinary medicines can also comprise antibiotics. They similarly have a knock-on effect on human health in terms of the resistant organisms which they may create. Therefore public concern should be just as great in regard to them. The distinction between an animal feedingstuff growth promoter and a veterinary medicine is a little difficult to appreciate. The use of vancomycin in a growth promoter or as a veterinary medicine should also be of concern to the public as the knock-on effects would have a similar impact on the public. Therefore the distinction between an animal feedingstuff and a veterinary medicine seems to be rather academic in those circumstances.

Turning to pesticides, it seems rather odd that they are not included within the ambit of this clause. In moving her previous amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred to Sun headlines. I am not such a populist, so I would simply refer to the Independent and the Guardian headlines. The Guardian headline states,

    “Researchers claim pesticide residues pose no healthrisks".

The Independent headline states:

    “Pesticide residues on fruit 'no risk to public'".

These are very recent headlines of 17th September in both those newspapers.

I give the Committee a flavour of the Independent article which states:

    “Food campaigners called for new safety checks last night after fruit and vegetables sold in British supermarkets were found to contain pesticide levels above recommended limits".

The first paragraph of the Guardian article states:

    “Government scientists moved yesterday to calm consumer fears about the level of pesticide residues found in food sold at supermarkets as campaigners called for more stringent safety checks".

It seems to us on these Benches that there is every logical reason why pesticides should be included within the ambit of the agency's powers. One has only to consider what body should be calming consumer fears and looking into the reality of whether those pesticides are indeed harmful to public health to realise that the agency should be the body doing that. Why leave it to a pesticide advisory group when animal feedingstuffs are already included in Clause 9? Why draw this line? I very much look forward to the Minister's reply.

I appreciate that the amendment from the Conservative Benches constitutes perhaps a more cautious approach to this matter although it has a similar intent. I suggest that there are very good reasons why the remit of the agency should be extended with immediate effect rather than waiting for a review as the logic of the division between those three areas eludes us. I beg to move.

The Countess of Mar: Perhaps I might say “hooray" as this is my subject. Having spent eight years on this very subject I am delighted to see these few amendments put down. I cannot see any reason whatsoever why either of these categories should be omitted from the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, made a valid point about the Pesticide Advisory

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Committee and Safety Directorate being the bodies which say that these things are safe. They are, after all, the licensing authorities--or at least they advise the Minister to license the products. They are not going to say that they are not safe if they have already licensed them. We have had long debates on this matter in the House over many years. I have talked about intellectual corruption. It is too much to expect the same group of people who are responsible for licensing products to say whether or not they are safe in food.

I am delighted to see this amendment. I hope the Minister will see the reality behind it. The public are very unhappy about residues in foods, whether they be veterinary medicines or pesticides, and this would help to put the position absolutely clearly. We are, after all, setting up the food standards agency in order to get away from that and away from the producers. This is one place that it really should be done.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 4.26 to 4.36 p.m.]

Baroness Byford: I should like to speak to my Amendment No. 89, which is linked with these amendments. The Government do not intend these areas of mass responsibility to be transferred to the agency, although they have considered the impact on food safety. This review would enable them to reconsider once the agency had been operating for five years. Many on-farm activities have a direct impact on food safety, such as E-coli, BSE, the contents of animal feedstuffs and the use of pesticides and antibiotics. There are provisions in the Bill which will enable the agency to have powers on-farm. Those will include its objectives of covering food production and supply and its information-gathering surveillance powers.

MAFF will continue to have responsibility for veterinary medicines and pesticides. The principle enshrined in setting up the agency--separating regulation from the department promoting the industry--will not apply. The product approval for the surveillance of pesticides and veterinary medicines will be inside the government department that promotes the industry. The agency will have greater responsibility for animal feedstuffs than it will for pesticides and veterinary medicines. In explaining the provisions in Clause 9 on animal feedstuffs, the Explanatory Notes to the Bill state:

    “The main reason for giving the Agency responsibility in this area is because of the possible implications of animal feedingstuffs for the safety of human consumers eating meat and animal products".

The same argument applies to both veterinary medicines and pesticides.

Baroness Hayman: I believe that some of the discussion we have had on this group of amendments is based on a misreading of Clause 9 and the reasons for including animal feedstuffs specifically. I take the point that has been made and it is quite clear-cut that those pesticides and veterinary medicines can have important implications for the safety of food. It is important that the agency takes those firmly into consideration in doing its work. I suggest to the noble

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Countess, Lady Mar, that perhaps there is an advantage in having the licensing body separate from that which assesses the food safety implications.

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