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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I can tell my noble friend that there is a huge amount of co-operation and collaboration between my department and the DfES on the overall issue of the contribution that museums can make to education. There is no doubt that good museum exhibitions and the good work done by museums in developing educational programmes can enhance the curriculum and motivate children by bringing alive history, geography and many other parts of the curriculum. I have seen some truly excellent work by small local museums that has achieved just that aim. The DfES is putting substantial sums into museum education and it currently has 63 projects going. Just recently, my noble friend Lady Ashton announced a further £1 million for that programme. My own department also has a programme for museum and galleries education. It is therefore a very big part of what our museums are now doing.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some local authorities, such as Northampton borough council, are in the process of closing museums that are much loved by the public and much used by the schools? As the Government are on the same wavelength as that particular council, will she perhaps consider using her influence to see that those closures are stopped?
Lord Sheldon: My Lords, will my noble friend accept that an important aspect of the issue is the fact that there has been no national strategy for most regional museums? Moreover, local authorities no longer have the finances to subsidise some of those museums as they have had in the past. As a member of the task force, I was most worried by the need to establish these hubs as early as possible, so that the regions are able to support themselves through their own arrangements. The arrangements vary greatly, and work and assistance must be provided as soon as possible.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I very much agree with my noble friend's comments on the need to make rapid progress in this respect. It is true that there have been problems in some regions of the country in sustaining the museum sector. However, we have a quite rapid timetable. The plan is that Resource will look at applications for the creation of regional hubs by, I think, the end of April, and announcements will be made sometime in June.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, is the Minister aware of some of the difficulties faced by the new hands-on science museums, many of which were set up as millennium projects? They were given capital funding to set themselves up but do not have continuing current funding to enable them to keep going and, as a result, now face some difficulties. Given the need to encourage students to study science at A-level and at university, will the Minister consider talking to her colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, about that matter to try to sort it out?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am aware that some science centres are in some financial difficulty in terms of their revenue funding. However, when they were set up it was made clear that they would be provided with lottery funding for their capital needs but that they would then have to survive and operate within their own budgets as regards their revenue. I am certainly happy to discuss that matter with my noble friend Lady Ashton but science centres must try to live within their budgets and raise money where they can. However, I accept that they, like other museums, provide valuable support for the curriculum.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I shall not be trapped by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, into supporting Liverpool's bid to be the European city of culture. Some 12 or 13 other cities are also preparing bids to achieve that status. However, when I visited Liverpool recently for the reopening of the Walker Gallery I was extremely impressed by the work carried out by the national museums on Merseyside, in particular with regard to the refurbishment of the Walker Gallery. The Government will continue to fund that national group of museums, as they do many others. Indeed, the Government have been able to increase the funding provided for our national museums by about 12 per cent.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, certification of organic meat production entails satisfying EC requirements covering the origin of animals, their feed, permitted husbandry practices and transport. No scientific procedures exist to verify that meat is organic by testing the end product and checks must be undertaken by on-farm inspections supported by associated documentation.
Lord Geraint: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's reply which was comprehensive and to the point. However, will he consider introducing legislation to safeguard the interests of consumers when they purchase labelled organic food which is not organic?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we have legislation under EU regulations which ensures that rules are laid down under which food that is organic can be labelled organic. A regulatory body in the UK is responsible for overseeing the 10 private sector bodies which certify that food is organic according to the rules laid down. Local authorities can enforce the law and take action against claims which are proven to be false. However, there is no scientific test which can prove that food is indeed organic. The Food Standards Agency has two research projects under way to determine whether such a scientific test can be developed. Obviously, one hopes for a positive
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, as I say, it is for local authorities to carry out checks on possible fraudulent claims. They can bring prosecutions under the Food Safety Act. In the year 2000, 41 prosecutions for false or misleading descriptions were brought before the courts and 64 prosecutions were brought for labelling regulations offences and other offences. Those figures are not broken down into organic and non-organic cases but the legal process is in place and it is up to local authorities to enforce the law.
Earl Howe: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Agriculture Select Committee in another place drew attention to possible discrepancies in the organic standards that are observed in certain third world countries? Bearing in mind that a fairly large percentage of the organic meat sold in the UK is imported, will the Government ensure that action is taken at EU level on the concern of the Select Committee?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, all cases involving problems in that area will, of course, be reviewed by the Government and if concerns need to be raised at EU level we shall certainly raise them. Within the EU all organic meat must be produced to the same standard. It is up to each country of the EU to enforce legislation in its own country. As regards organic production outside the EU, a number of countries have already demonstrated to the EU that they have equivalent standards. Imports from those countries may take place freely, although the importers must be registered and subject to audit. As regards imports from other countries, importers must show to the control authority that equivalent standards apply. The regulatory framework is in place but clearly, if there are examples where it is believed that the rules are not being applied, the Government will look into those seriously.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the recommendation in Sir Don Curry's report on the future of food and farming that the Government should introduce a comprehensive strategy for organic food production covering its production, research and development, standards and marketing? I believe that that would satisfy many of the questions raised by noble Lords.
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