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Baroness Amos: My Lords, first, the issue of genetically modified organisms is not on the agenda of the WTO round. I am happy to write to the noble Lord about some of the research that the department has been doing, which has been considering agricultural productivity and ways to enhance products in developing countriesfor example, by the addition of vitamin E to help with health outcomes.
In response to the noble Lord's first question, I was surprised at the failure. Although there were robust discussions and very clear disagreements in Cancun, there was a feeling that a deal could be done. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were very surprised at the speed of the collapse of the talks. South Africa and India both expressed surprise and regret to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry later on Sunday, after the talks had collapsed.
I agree with the noble Lord that the WTO represents a challenge, but it also represents the best possible opportunity for the poorest developing countries, which do not have the capacity to negotiate bilateralor, even if they come together, regionaltrade agreements with some of the bigger countries.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the common agricultural policy is compulsory expenditure in terms of the European Union budget and is therefore subject to great influence by single member states, as we witnessed in the discussion between the Prime Minister and M. Chirac after a recent European Council meeting? Does not the disproportionate influence of a single country on agriculture make it extremely difficult to get a mandate from the European Union that
Baroness Amos: My Lords, with respect to the EU mandate at Cancun, I do not think that we had the lowest common factor. There may not have been the maximalist approach that we in the United Kingdom would have liked to see. However, as a result of the CAP reform deal that we managed to do in Junemy right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs played a very big part in thatthe mandate may not have been as good as it was. I repeat what I said previously: a deal on agriculture was there to be done.
Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the statement she made a few minutes agothat the recent deal on the CAP reform was historicis slightly exaggerated? The link between production and subsidy has not been broken for many commodities. The cost of producing sugar in Europe is three to four times that in the developing world, yet M. Chirac has ensured that the subsidy continues for the next three to four years. Will the Minister explain how the protection of French sugar beet farmers helps the Third World?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I do not think that protection of specific products in the European Union helps developing countries. That is why it is so important that this is part of a process, and that we will be looking at cotton later this year and at sugar next year.
I draw noble Lords' attention to the fact that the European Commission has made it absolutely clear to developing countries that we are prepared to look at any specific productswhere we have high tariffs, for example, which they feel restricts their development. There is frustration that developing countries have not come back to the Commission with a list of products. We are in the process of trying to ensure that developing countries understand what that means, because it is a great opportunity.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 84, I shall speak also to 10 amendments in the same group, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Northbourne. He apologises for not having been in his place, through inadvertence, to move Amendment No. 75 last week and for being overseas this week.
The whole group of amendments attempts to clarify the Government's intentions about the meaning of the two words "a parent" in this part of the Bill. It also seeks to make the Bill clearer and easier for ordinary people to understand. It is difficult for a non-lawyer to understand that "a parent" can, and does, include both parents. It is ordinary people whose lives will be affected by the Bill. It therefore needs to be comprehensible to them, as well as to the practitioners who will have to administer it, and who may not have legal training.
Amendment No. 84 and the other amendments in the group, except Amendments Nos. 108 and 144, are designed to make clear beyond doubt that this part of the Bill should apply, not only to one parent acting alone, but to two or more persons acting together, if each falls into one of the categories of persons who qualify as parents for the purposes of this part of the Bill. It is particularly important to avoid any misunderstanding on that point because, where two parents are available, it is often the case that both working together can be more effective in helping the child than either working alone.
Amendment No. 144 attempts to define the categories of person who may qualify as "a parent" for the purposes of the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, has written to my noble friend Lord Northbourne a most helpful letter, for which he asked me to express his thanks. It indicates that, for the purposes of the Bill, the definition of "parent" will be the same as in the Education Act 1996, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Family Law Act 1987. However, the definition of "parent" in those three Acts is not exactly the same. Am I correct in assuming that the Government's intention is that any class of person mentioned in those Acts will qualify as "a parent" for the purposes of the Bill?
Amendment No. 144 as drafted is intended to be probing. It includes some classes of person to test whether the Government intend to include them or not. My noble friend who drafted the amendment is particularly interested in the status, in this matter, of stepfathers and stepmothers, and also of persons living in the home of the child as a partner of a parent of the child. In a society that prides itself on having an increasing number of "flexible families", it is important that the Government should make clear what, if any, are the responsibilities of cohabiting partners in families with children.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I very much understand and appreciate the sentiments that have just been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, especially those on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who has had a long-standing interest in this issue. I am very sympathetic to the intention behind these amendments and share the noble Lord's concerns about the "dad deficit" about which he spoke so passionately and so well at Second Reading. I should like to provide a strong reassurance that the Government also believe that engaging both parents, where appropriate, is extremely important in improving their child's school attendance or behaviour in or outside school. The relevant clauses of the Bill have been drafted to ensure that that is possible.
Who is approached and whether one or both parents will be involved depends on an assessment of the child and the child's family circumstances carried out on behalf of either party considering arranging a parenting contract or applying for a parenting order. This assessment should enable practitioners to respond effectively to the particular circumstances of the case. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is quite right in saying that those circumstances can vary materially. Both parents would be involved if there is any benefit. We will consider further whether to make this assessment in guidance. In practice, we expect that LEAs, schools and youth offending teams will focus efforts and resources primarily towards parents who have some involvement with the child and are therefore in a position to influence the child's behaviour.
When applying for a parenting order under Part 3 of the Bill, the application will name the parent or parents it is asking the court to consider making the subject of a parenting order. Local education authorities and youth offending teams will put a recommendation to the courts based on the assessment of the circumstances. Guidance on the existing Crime and Disorder Act provisions already requires both parents to be considered for an order. Furthermore, courts already have the power to enforce parental attendance in court if they feel it is appropriate.
As the noble Lord said, engaging fathers can be a real problem, but this is a matter to be dealt with by practitioners who know the individual family circumstances of the children they are supporting. The existing provisions of the Bill are sufficient to ensure the appropriate involvement of both parents. I therefore ask the noble Lord not to press his amendments.
I reassure him that the definitions and statutes to which he alluded all represent descriptions of what a parent can be, all of which will be captured by our definition of parent. The noble Lord is right: parents now come in many forms and can be birth parents, step parents and, sometimes, partners who are the de facto parent of the child and who may have parental responsibility in relation to the child. All of them, if appropriate, can be captured by the Bill.
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