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Baroness Hayman: Perhaps I may assist the noble Lord; I did not express myself clearly. We do not need a legal base in Clause 9 to take into account work on the effect of animal feedstuffs on human health any more than we need a separate legal base for the agency to take account of pesticides or of veterinary medicine in that area. Clause 9 allows the agency to be the overall agency for other areas with regard to animal feedstuffs because of the balance being smaller there, and the need for separation not being the same. Pet food is a good example of why we need this legislative cover. However, because we are content for the other elements of pesticide and veterinary medicine to be dealt with by the directorates, we do not need a separate legal base. That would be extending beyond food safety and consumer protection which is covered in Clause 1. I have obviously not helped, but hindered.

Lord Clement-Jones: The Minister elucidated my confusion; however, in some respects the Minister, with greatest respect, has extended the confusion. Even if we keep the executive agencies relative to veterinary medicine separate, the same arguments on the legal base related to animal health or whatever still apply to veterinary medicines. Clearly this is an argument which I need to consider quite carefully. I still have geese and ganders knocking around in my head as a result of what the Minister has said. I am tempted to talk about angels on pins because there may be a splitting of distinctions between veterinary medicine and animal foodstuffs, but that may be a difference without distinction or vice versa which is being made here.

Again I was reassured by the Minister's assurance that all three areas would be fought within the food safety remit of the agency and that is a very important undertaking.

Finally, like the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I was also reassured that the remit of the agency would be kept under review. However, provided that we are certain that those three elements in so far as they affect human health, public health, food safety are already enshrined in the Bill, we have the powers of the agency that we need. I am still unclear about the aspect of

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animal health and whether or not we should see that addition in Clause 9 to take account of veterinary medicines. No doubt we will come back to this later, but in the in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 not moved.]

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 4, line 10, at end insert (“, although these matters shall be secondary to the Agency's primary function of promoting and protecting public health")

The noble Lord said: The Minister has already addressed this amendment and given reassurance, in a sense, about the absolute priority of the agency. As I am sure the Minister will have recognised, this is designed to tease out a view about the agency's priorities. In a sense, whatever the agency's advice to the users of animal feeding stuffs, and whatever its exercise of its duties under Clause 9, the agency's main priority will actually be food safety and human health.

Clause 9 recognises that it is important that the agency takes a plough to plate approach to food safety, as undertaken in the original White Paper. This duty, going from plough to plate, however, should not be allowed to detract from the promotion and protection of public health and result in an agency faced with a conflict of interest. That is why I readily took the point made by the Minister about the executive agencies staying under MAFF. In this way, any functions exercised in relation to animal feeding stuff should be related to public health. Any other functions in relation to animal feeding stuff, which are not related to public health, should be reviewed according to public health function. It is a question of priorities, and the Minister has already half answered the question. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: I rise to speak to my Amendment No. 38, which follows on from the discussions we have just had on foodstuffs. This clause specifies that the agency has the same general functions relating to animal feed as to food safety in so far as these matters relate to the safety of animal feedingstuffs and other interests of users of animal feedstuffs.

The recent dioxin scare discovered in Belgian animal feeds and the questionable content of some pig and poultry feeds, let alone the wider use of antibiotics in feedstuffs, have been much highlighted in the press recently. Other Members of the Committee referred to that earlier. This, plus the ongoing discussions around genetically modified feedstuffs, makes this clause important. If you like, in an “Ilkley Moor bar t'hat" sense, I may be defined as a user of animal feeds. However, in view of the dioxin crisis in the Belgian feed, and the content of some pig and poultry feedstuffs, we felt it necessary to take this opportunity to clarify the situation.

The dioxin position points up the problems surrounding free trade. Not only do we have no control over what our farmers feed their animals abroad, but we have little or no control over the content of animal feedstuffs imported into the UK. If

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this amendment is carried, it will be crystal clear that the risks to animal health arising in any way from the fault in animal feedstuffs will be clearly in the province of the agency.

Lord Clement-Jones: I am sorry to extend the proceedings on this set of amendments, but I have not spoken to Amendment No. 33, about which I should have said something. It is relevant to what we have already discussed.

The agency's responsibilities in relation to animal feedingstuffs will require that it keeps users of animal feedingstuffs informed about matters which affect their capacity for making informed decisions about them, which is what the clause in its current form would require. It is also important, however, that members of the public are kept informed about any issues relating to animal feedingstuffs that may affect their ability to make informed decisions about food. This amendment is intended to ensure that both are made explicit.

From what the Minister said earlier I suspect that what she is going to say--I am getting good at anticipating ministerial replies--is that the point is already covered by the food safety duty, that the agency will of course advise, whether it is on pesticides, veterinary medicines or animal feedingstuffs and that, therefore, we do not need this amendment. In that case perhaps the Minister could treat this as a probing amendment to ensure that she gives us the reassurances on that subject which we all need.

5 p.m.

Viscount Gage: I do not know whether it is appropriate to ask at this juncture whether the agency will have powers to make compounders state the precise ingredients of animal feed. This has been an issue. There is still no binding authority; the authority is voluntary. Will the agency have the ability to compel compounders to state ingredients precisely so that farmers can take a decision on this matter and know exactly what they are feeding their animals?

Baroness Hayman: I will deal with the final issue first. I agree with noble Lords who have commented on the inadequacy of labelling of animal feed at the moment. This is an area of EU competency. We have been working at EU level to ensure that proper labelling is provided which contains the relevant information. It is in that area, for example, that the GM content of animal feed comes into the equation.

However, we have to recognise that responsibilities in this area do not just involve labelling. Some of the problems that have arisen have not involved bad or good labelling but rather have involved the misuse or contravention of what ought to be going into the feed in the first place. This is where surveillance, monitoring and enforcement powers are extremely important. I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and others who have spoken. The intention behind these amendments as I understand it is to

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ensure that the agency can, and does, carry out its duties across the entire food chain. That is already covered properly in earlier clauses in the Bill. The possible implications of animal feedingstuffs for the safety of human consumers of meat and animal products are already covered under the agency's main aim in Clause 1 and under the general functions contained in Clauses 6, 7 and 8. These functions apply to all aspects of food safety throughout the production chain. They cover the agencies responsible for animal feedingstuffs which could potentially affect human health. This runs parallel to the issue of veterinary medicines and pesticides.

We come back to the question on which the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, was probing me earlier; namely, why we need Clause 9 and why it contains a reference to animal feedingstuffs. This matter may be clearer when it is seen in print than it is at the moment. However, in common-sense terms this is a matter of balance. There are issues other than the implications of animal feedingstuffs for the safety of human consumers. I refer to pet food, for example. Pet food is covered by the same EU directive as animal feed. We believe that responsibility for that small area of animal feed--outside human health and food safety--lies with the food standards agency. It makes common-sense for one agency to deal with that matter. I fully accept that that is the opposite of the argument I made on veterinary medicines and pesticides because the balance of work in that area is quite different. Food safety is not the only element in pesticides, which have environmental and operator effects and are potentially harmful to human health. There are a wide range of other areas where we believe that the separation of the agency and the licensing authority is beneficial. So, it is not angels dancing on the head of a pin at all; it is a common- sense argument about where the balance of responsibility lies. I suspect, however, that I shall not have reassured the noble Lord, though I hope that maybe before Report stage I can write to him with greater clarity.

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