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Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for some very good assurances. I was delighted by her remarks about the need positively to market various foods. I could not support more strongly her comments on what is being done in the pig market. However, one would like to see that happen in other agricultural markets. As a farmer I have never been against good competition, not only in the home market but abroad. However, I understand that it is legal to sell foodstuffs in the UK that have been produced in Far Eastern countries with pesticides that are illegal in this country. There is a query as to whether the pharmaceutical commodities used to produce chickens have an effect at a later stage. It is also illegal in this country to use growth promoters on beef.

We are interested in ensuring that these products are put on the shelves so that the general public can make an informed choice. They can also choose their preferred production technique. We do not want to restrict the entry of other products into this country but to ensure that the public can make an informed choice. It is not a matter of banning other products but of enabling the public to make an informed choice.

I accept the observations of the noble Baroness about this amendment and the two linked with it. I shall read Hansard and try to think of a way to get round the problems she highlighted. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 not moved.]

Clause 11 [Power of entry for persons carrying out observations]:

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 5, line 4, after ("exercise") insert ("reasonably and proportionately").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 14 makes reference to reasonableness and proportionality which featured in earlier debates. I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 17.

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As to Amendment No. 14, the observation powers are set out at great length. To some of us they smack of rather draconian legislation. We on this side of the House have no problem with stringent rules that are designed to tackle emergencies. However, as they stand, these rules open the door to heavy-handed action by bureaucrats of all weights and even, as provided for in Clause 11(1),

    "any individual (whether a member of its staff or otherwise)".

At Committee stage the debate on Clauses 10 and 11 covered, among other things, reimbursement to businesses of their costs of providing information required by the agency as part of its observations. The debate also touched on the lack of reference in the Bill to security of personal data. In her reply the Minister stated:

    "The officers acting for the agency ... will be under a general duty to behave reasonably and proportionately".--[Official Report, 13/10/99; col. CWH89.]

She went on to say, at col. CWH90 that,

    "under Clause 11 the agency would only be able to obtain information that is reasonably necessary for the purposes described there".

Perhaps we on this side of the House do not have total faith in the basic goodness of human nature. We want this phrase on the face of the Bill. We should like to know that every employee, associate or person authorised by the agency is legally bound to act reasonably and proportionately. We should also like to know that the duty is instantly recognisable by anyone who has cause to consult the legislation, possibly in pursuit of a complaint.

I turn to Amendment No. 17. Clause 11 is concerned with the powers of entry for the carrying out of observations. Clause 14 is related to the powers of entry in carrying out enforcement. Surely, enforcement happens either when something has gone horribly wrong, such as an outbreak of E.coli, or someone has broken the rules. For example, in the case of food-borne contamination access to the medical records of those involved is reasonable. In this Bill such circumstances are not specified. Access is included in Clause 11, but we on this side feel that it is unnecessary in the pursuit of observations--so unnecessary that we wonder whether there has been a mix-up between Clause 11, where the provision now is, and Clause 14, where perhaps it should be. Certainly, in Committee we became quite confused.

Following that debate and a reading of Hansard, that conjecture was strengthened by the Minister's comment, at col. CWH91:

    "It is however right that it should have the appropriate powers to investigate if it is really necessary that it should do so to protect public health".

I beg to move.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with this amendment. Perhaps I may put a question to the Minister. In view of the fact that the Secretary of State has the power to ask the food standards agency to draw up codes of practice, will he refer to the European Union's code of good administrative behaviour? Earlier I gave the noble

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Baroness, Lady Hayman, a copy of the code. I should like to see a number of other items included in the behaviour of officials: the absence of discrimination (Article 5); proportionality (Article 6); the absence of abuse of power (Article 7); impartiality and independence (Article 8); and objectivity (Article 9). Article 10 is headed,

    "Legitimate expectations and consistency".

Most important of all, Article 11 refers to fairness.

It may well be that these matters can be taken into consideration in drawing up the equivalent of the Section 40 codes of practice when the food standards agency is set up. Perhaps the Minister can say whether that will be taken into account.

Lord Monson: My Lords, these are probably the most important amendments to be dealt with tonight, in particular Amendment No. 14. No doubt we shall be told that of course officials will behave reasonably and proportionately. If so, why not put it on the face of the Bill?

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and her team will stick to their guns.

6.30 p.m.

The Earl of Radnor: My Lords, Amendment No. 18 which I have tabled is along the lines of the noble Baroness's amendments but is more specific and precise. It relates to entry to premises. The noble Baroness, and the noble Lord, Lord Monson, noted the powerful provisions under this clause.

As I did in Grand Committee, I declare an interest as a processor of fish, producing on to the market from about 110 outlets about 1,500 tonnes a year, so I have a certain practical experience.

Authorised persons are able to enter premises which may involve food processing of one kind or another. As was said many times in Grand Committee they will be reasonable people; we shall not pick rogues. But on the other hand, they might not be prepared to obey the "house rules" of the plant. It is a point that I made previously. The house rules are often more severe than those laid down by law. A plant which processes meat pies, or whatever one likes to think of, has regular visits from the environmental health officer and the health and safety officer. They have slightly overlapping duties. I fear that the agency person, with his or her companion, duly authorised, will feel that it is adequate just to be within the law.

I believe that that situation is totally inadequate. It lays open the owner of a plant--it may be an individual or a firm--to serious commercial loss. The buyers are nearly always a great deal more particular about how the plant is handled, and how the food is processed, than the law provides for. It is important for the owner of the plant that nothing goes wrong which would upset the buyer--it might be a supermarket--and thus lose a great deal of business either in the short term or forever; I do not know. All I know is that those representatives come round far

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more often; they are far fussier. And if the processor does something wrong, they drop that business and go somewhere else. There is no doubt about that.

The point applies to me. In a previous debate on, I think, farming or some issue like that, we spoke of value added processes. I mentioned that I was no longer able to go into my own plant because my wheelchair was considered inadequate. I have to have a special wheelchair which remains in the plant and is scrubbed, hosed, and so on. Although the issue may seem small, it is precise and important.

On other small matters, it would be very bad for an agency person to be less well equipped--for instance, as regards what he or she has to wear--than the staff in the plant. They would notice that like a shot. But the important point is the protection for a plant so that it does not lose business. I shall later move my amendment because I believe the point very important indeed.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, not for the first time in the passage of the Bill--I have studied it through my activities in the Moses Room in Grand Committee and in Hansard--my noble kinsman Lord Radnor has hit the nail squarely on the head. We all know that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, (or the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, if he is to answer) cannot put his or her hand on heart and say that an authorised person or someone accompanying him or her can prevent extra infection coming into the packing plant (or whatever it is). Therefore where the packing plant owner or managers use care over and above that required by law it is very important indeed that the authorised person or the person accompanying him or her, should do exactly what my noble friend seeks.

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