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Does the Minister believe that the pig industry is facing extinction--that the collapse will go on--or is it the view of MAFF that there is a market for British pig products which will recover when supply and demand come into balance? In other words, we are seeing a number of pig producers going out of business but, so far, not enough to have taken that amount of production out of the market to enable the price to rise to a viable level for those who survive. However, is it MAFF's view that there is a long-term future for British pig farmers and that it is mainly a question of supply and demand?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as I said earlier, I believe that it is a combination of factors. The average weekly price of pigmeat currently stands at 92.05p per kilogramme. That is up from 75p per kilogramme at the end of January. That represents what is just about the break-even point for most producers.
The pig industry has always been cyclical. We are seeing some restructuring at the moment. We believe that there is a long-term market for high quality produce, both in this country and abroad. We are a net exporter of pork. I think also that there is a market premium for products which are produced to very high standards both in terms of welfare and feed. For that reason, we have concentrated on helping British producers to market the high quality of their produce.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, reverting to the point made by my noble friend Lord Campbell about regulations loosely enforced elsewhere but pressed home with rigour here, will the Minister do her best to persuade officials in her department to learn a little more about what goes on in Europe and to stop acting as though they were themselves the appointed pallbearers for this industry?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as I have said previously to the noble Lord, I have no intention of gold-plating any provisions or of placing extra, unnecessary burdens on British producers. Equally, we all recognise that in the aftermath of BSE, the provisions are in the interests of rebuilding the industry in this country. We have been successful domestically. We need to become so in export terms. That brings with it the cost of high hygiene and public health standards.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, while the fertility of the pig is one of the great dangers--it multiplies quickly--in this case the strength of the pound has as much to do with the troubles of the industry, just as is the case with many other industries? Will she do something about that?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I do not know whether I prefer to answer on pig fertility or on the strength of the pound. In many ways, the strength of the pound against the euro is an extremely significant factor in that part of the agriculture industry, as it is elsewhere. The answer does not lie in an artificial devaluation of a currency which represents a strong economy. That would be difficult to achieve and would produce more negative effects than success. We return to the support which we can give to the industry, which has been successful in creating markets for a high premium product.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, will the Minister explain why the Irish, French and Belgian Governments have all applied for financial help from the European Commission and have obtained it, yet this Government have not? Furthermore, following the question asked by my noble friend, why did the Government decide to block Stephen O'Brien's Private Member's Bill which would have helped people in choosing British products? The Government chose to talk out the measure, thus failing to provide additional aid to British pig farmers.
Equally, we cannot impose the provisions of Stephen O'Brien's Bill. It is no good pretending that because one wants the world to be different, it is different. We have taken action to ensure that the rules in this country prevent the misleading labelling of products as "British" which are not British.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, education is central to eradicating the brutal practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM. My department continues to fund relevant voluntary organisations. In addition, the Government will ensure that the findings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health hearings on FGM are fed into the development of our sexual health strategy.
Baroness Rendell of Babergh: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply, which was not perhaps as encouraging as I had hoped. To sustain a more positive note, is he aware of the reversal procedures--mostly highly successful--presently being carried out at the African clinic of the Central Middlesex Hospital? Is he further aware that any woman who has been subjected to female genital mutilation may attend the clinic whenever she chooses without referral from a GP?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I want to reassure my noble friend that we take the matter extremely seriously. We shall reflect carefully on the findings of the all-party parliamentary group and we shall then wish to consider how we may take forward
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I took the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Bill through your Lordships' House? It is of great concern that this fiendish practice may be taking place in some private hospitals up and down the country. Is it not therefore extremely important that the Care Standards Bill covers private hospitals?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her work. It is a fact that, although the Act was passed in 1985, there have been no prosecutions. I believe that that is due to the small number of complaints which have been made. The police have found it difficult to obtain evidence to support a conviction. With regard to regulation of private healthcare, I believe that a rigorous approach must be adopted. As the noble Baroness says, the Care Standards Bill provides a mechanism by which we can do so.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, as the Minister says, the practice has been illegal since 1985. Does he therefore agree that, since that date, anyone who has had the operation carried out in this country has undergone an illegal operation? In the case of minors in particular, no parent or adult would have had the right to give permission for an illegal operation. Therefore, at any stage subsequently a person who had had such an operation would surely be entitled to bring a case for damages against whoever had conducted the mutilation. Have there been any such cases of damages and, if not, would it not be a good idea, when cases are discovered--as they are inevitably when women present for other treatments--for it to be pointed out to the women concerned that such rights exist? A few such cases would certainly do something to remedy the cause.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am not aware of any cases brought to court in the way in which the noble Baroness suggests. There is no doubt that such an operation is an illegal act. It is a horrific act and one which we must pursue with vigour but, as I have already said, there are very real practical difficulties in obtaining evidence to enable the police to pursue such cases. Of course, in the context to which the noble Baroness refers, we are probably talking about the parents of the young woman concerned. That indicates the difficulties that we have in that area.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I am pleased to hear the Minister say that notice would be taken of the findings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. When the new government guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, is to be issued, what
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