|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, given the "unsafe" verdict of his department following trials of GM sugar beet and oilseed rape, will the Minister spell out that they will ban such GM crops in the UK or, if not, accept legal liability for contamination from such crops?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that we now have the reports on three crops. He uses the word "unsafe"; we were considering the environmental rather than the human health impact. There was a greater detrimental effect on the environment from two of those crops compared with conventional crops. We will clearly need to take that finding into account in considering any application to grow such crops. Were they or any other GM crops to be allowed to go ahead
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there is no simple answer to that. As they are already in the public arena, I am happy to furnish the noble Lord with the reports on the crops involved. It depends on the local conditions, the type of crops and the time of year. It is precisely such detail that may need to be covered in guidelines.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the GM crop trials in 2001 and 2002 in Scotland, which were paralleled in England, suffered from an admixture of GM material that was not covered by the consent for the trials? Do the Government have any plans to introduce a more rigorous purity test for genetically modified seed than that which currently operates for conventional seed?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there is already substantially greater testing of GM seed than of conventional seedalthough at the end of the day, the public health impact may well be the same, so they may therefore have to be tested subject to the same degree of proof and caution. If there were a consent, anyone who breached the terms of that consent would, in certain circumstances, be liable, but we are discussing so many hypothetical questions that any detailed answer to that question must await our verdict on the basis of the advice that we are about to receive.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, it appears that in certain circumstances there may be some advantage in that respect. The economic report which is part of our general consultation on future attitudes towards GM showed that, in certain development circumstances, there could be some advantage, although it was not as great as is sometimes claimed.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, is the committee that is due to report at the end of this month on the GM situation considering the implications, not just for whole crops, but field trial crops also? As the noble Lord knows, last week we talked about the trashing of those crops, and, fortunately, that verdict has been overtaken. However, we have lost the science from Bayer, which has pulled out of field trials, and Monsanto has pulled out of cereals altogether. Is the Minister not concerned that we might lose future science and technology development in this country, which would probably be very regrettable?
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, Bayer pulled out of its GM crop trials because the Government insisted on releasing the six-figure grid reference, thus it was concerned that its trials would be trashed. In retrospect, do the Government think that that was unwise? Will they consider not always insisting that companies give out the six-figure grid reference in future?
Lord Whitty: No, my Lords. Transparency is an issue. There would be greater public concern, particularly among local farmers, were they not aware that a GM crop was being grown in their area. That would create the exact kind of anxiety that I thought the noble Lord was concerned about in his first Question.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, nobody can deny the cultural and economic importance of the West End theatre. The report by the Theatres Trust does an excellent job of setting out the problems that beset the sector. I understand that the Arts Council is committed to working closely with the Society of London Theatre and the Theatres Trust to explore funding options and discuss the issues.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and the commitment to engage with London theatre entrepreneurs, whose recent investment has helped to maintain a rich architectural heritage, a lively tradition of top-class drama and musicals, and a tourist attraction bringing jobs and prosperity to the capital. Nevertheless, will my noble friend undertake government action in the form of lottery funding, tax concessions or improved planning law to ensure that £250 million is found to upgrade London's commercial theatres, especially their seating and sight lines, public areas and backstage facilities and their ability to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act and modern health and safety laws?
Lord Lloyd-Webber: My Lords, obviously, I must declare an interest in West End theatre. A fantastic Question has been asked. Is the Minister aware that the real concern within the West End is not only the fabric of the buildings but that the commercial theatre is not on a level playing field with the public sector? An example is the fact that the entire profit generated by the four playhouses on Shaftesbury Avenue since 1945 is less than was granted for the refurbishment of the Royal Court in the public sector.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, except in exceptional circumstancesfor example, where there is access to, and learning about, heritagethe policy of lottery funding bodies is that grants should not be made to commercial buildings as opposed to the subsidised theatre. In that sense there is a distinction between the publicly subsidised theatre and commercial theatre. But that is true of all lottery funding for theatres and for all other purposes.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the Theatres Trust and a former member of the board of the Society of London Theatre. As my noble friend pursues his very sympathetic response to the Question, will he bear in mind that the subsidised sector depends quite significantly on the health and well-being of the West End theatres? In support of that, for instance, the National Theatre currently has three shows running in the West End. Historically, the subsidised theatre has provided many products for the West End. I am sure he will agree, therefore, that it is very much in the interest of the subsidised theatre that West End theatres should be well maintained and well managed.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree. I recognise the degree to which subsidised theatre and the commercial theatre support each otherit goes both ways. That is why I am pleased to be able to say, as I did at the outset, that the Arts Council is committed to working closely with the Society of London Theatre and the Theatres Trust.
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, the report mentions the expectations of theatre-goers. I think that the noble Lord will agree that most regular theatre-goers temper their expectations with moderation, because they are in very old buildings, many of which are listed, and do
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|