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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. I am sorry that at this late stage I have managed to come up with an amendment that is

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technically defective. I think I am at the end of the plank and walking into the sea because there is no recourse for me at this stage. Much as I would like to say "boo", I fear I am stuck there without a canoe as well.

I only hope that the Government will bear in mind the debate that we have had on this defective amendment. It is important that this issue should not be overlooked. I hope that our desire that there should not be long periods of unlimited approval and that an order should be sought will be borne strongly in mind by Ministers when they refer to Hansard. I am anxious, as other Lords have mentioned in earlier debates on the Bill, because this Bill contains huge powers. I feel that this amendment would have been a sensible move and I am only sorry that I have been proved totally inadequate at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 19:


Page 30, line 9, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 19, to which I spoke at Committee stage. The Medicines Act 1968 provides for Ministers to consult,


    "such organisations as the Ministers concerned consider appropriate"

before setting up the Veterinary Products Committee, and states that the Ministers


    "shall appoint the members of the committee".

For the past 30-plus years, this has been done with great store set by the independence of those very members. Indeed, that freedom from party or factional allegiance has been much envied internationally.

Coming up to date, I draw the attention of your Lordships to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, on 19th May this year when he summarised the guidance on the use of scientific advice in policy making as governed by the overriding principle of selection based on merit. An appointment made by a Minister on the say-so of the foods standards agency is not necessarily going to be meritorious.

In the context of food safety and in the light of the European Scientific Committee's ruling in favour of British beef, it would be appalling if any such appointment were felt to be factional or partisan. It would be even worse if it were to be judged that, under European law, such an appointee should be disbarred from speaking or voting on food safety matters, especially as I understand that almost half of all the existing licensed animal medicines are for pet use and have nothing to do with food or the remit of the food standards agency.

The food standards agency should emulate the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency and send an observer to the meetings of the Veterinary Products Committee. Any conflicts or

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problems that arose should then be dealt with through the system of published protocols that we have been promised. I beg to move.

5.15 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I understand this amendment has been prompted by the concerns of the noble Baroness about the future independence and integrity of the Veterinary Products Committee to which, like her, I am happy to pay tribute for many years of effective work. However, the effect of the amendment of the noble Baroness would be to remove the requirement that the agency should nominate, and I stress the word "nominate", a member of that committee. I believe that her concerns are unfounded and that limiting the agency in this way would be an unjustifiable restriction on the agency's input into matters relating to veterinary medicines which, your Lordships will recall, and indeed as the noble Baroness mentioned, we debated extensively at an early stage in the passage of this Bill.

I think the mood of the House at that stage was very much that it was right that the agency should play a part in matters relating to veterinary medicines. Throughout the development of our proposals for the food standards agency we have kept its proposed remit across the entire food chain firmly in mind. I believe that if we are firmly to restore the lost consumer confidence in food controls it is essential that we establish a body that is kept informed of relevant developments, is able to make its views known and, where necessary, able to take effective action on matters concerning food at any point in the chain from production to consumption.

We explained previously that the Government had taken the view that it was right for the regulation of veterinary medicines to remain a matter for the Veterinary Medicines Directorate but equally it was right that the agency should be involved in the work of that directorate in various ways, including through nominating a member to serve on the Veterinary Products Committee. We believe that, through that ability to nominate a member of the committee, the agency will be at the heart of the procedure for examining veterinary medicines, able to make its views known and play an active and constructive role.

We need only recall comments made here and in the other place over recent weeks about concerns over the possible effects of antibiotic use in food producing animals and about the use of hormones to realise the interest taken in the use of veterinary medicines and the concerns that many have, rightly or wrongly, about the implications for food. I think the agency's nominee must be able to speak authoritatively on food safety matters and work collectively with other members of the committee in making decisions. They will offer their expertise on any potential public health implications of the authorisation of veterinary medicinal products relating to food safety and I believe that this process of nomination will in fact aid the work of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate as well as the agency itself.

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In conclusion, the noble Baroness expressed her concern about an appointment of a member to the directorate being on the say-so of the food standards agency. I believe that nomination means just that and not appointment. It is for the Ministers to make the appointment and if they are not satisfied with the person or persons put forward by the agency for potential nomination they are very much at liberty to ask the agency to think again and put forward further names. I hope that on that basis the noble Baroness will be reassured and will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may clarify one point. I think I am right--I need a little clarification on this--that previously perhaps 10 names were put forward for consideration. From reading the Bill, I had understood that the agency would nominate only one person and that that person would be appointed under the procedures that have existed hitherto.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there are two points to be made here. First, I would expect that the procedure under which a person is nominated and appointed would come under the general procedures for public appointments which cover many of the aspects she raises. However, I reiterate the point that, even if the agency were to nominate one person, it would still be very much in the hands of Ministers to decide whether they thought that that nomination were acceptable. Alternatively, they could ask the agency to submit more names. Ultimately, it would be in the hands of the appointing Ministers and not the agency.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, the Bill is confusing and I thank the Minister for his explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 5 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

[Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 not moved.]

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Baroness Hayman.)

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I shall speak briefly because I realise that time has marched on. I thank all noble Lords on all sides of the House who have taken part in our debates. The Bill went to a Grand Committee which many noble Lords might think is not the most ideal way to hold a Committee stage, but we battled very well. I sincerely thank Ministers who responded to our amendments for the way in which they approached the discussions. We hope that this Bill leaves our House in a better state.

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The Earl of Radnor: My Lords, I offer my grateful thanks for all the assurances that were given by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I endorse the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. This is an extremely important Bill. It was overwhelmingly pleasant to deal with all the amendments without any nastiness or unpleasantness and to arrive at this stage with a consensus and agreement that perhaps we have done the right thing.

Viscount Thurso: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to echo the sentiments of the noble Countess, Lady Mar. I believe that we have covered all the stages of the Bill without a single vote. That is testimony not only to the tenacity the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, for tabling their amendments, but to the generous spirit in which the Government Front Bench received our representations and accepted our points. I thank them for that. I also thank the officials who have been most co-operative and helpful in making our job easier.

I conclude on another note. About two weeks ago when speaking on a tourism issue, I observed that it would be the last time I would speak in your Lordships' House on that subject. However, another tourism Question is tabled for tomorrow and I have had to arrange to go to Scotland to make that prophesy come true. Now I can clearly state that this is the last time I shall take part in a Bill in your Lordships' House, and what a pleasure it has been.


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