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Column 308The third issue is the system as a whole. I have aggrieved constituents who feel let down by the system for the examination of local plans. Some of the most pertinent questions that I have been asked came in a letter from one of the district councillors for Felsted and Little Dunmow, Mr. John Berry-Richards, and which he also asked the Secretary of State. May he please be told who draws up the terms of reference for such an inquiry? Is it usual to decide that some representations are rejected at the pre-inquiry meeting? Is it usual for the inspector to make specific recommendations in the event of his being unable to support the preferred options? In the event of the inspector making recommendations that affect those people not permitted to make representations, what recourse is open to them? There are other letters, whether they come from Takeley, Birchanger, Little Dunmow or Felsted, saying more or less the same thing. Although the inspector allowed the proponents of the Felsted development to make their case, he refused to hear representations from the communities that would be affected.
"Living where I do,"
says a lady,
"I would be pleased to be able to put forward my views as would many other people living in"
"since we were not allowed to have our say at the Enquiry in 1993."
Felsted parish council could be speaking for Takeley parish council or Birchanger parish council when it says:
"One of these sites . . . will have an enormous impact on our village and yet neither this Council, nor any of its residents, were allowed to question the evidence presented to the Public Inquiry". The words "undemocratic" and "unfair" pervade a great many of the letters that I have received. Those people in the districts where it is now determined that the airport-related housing will be did not have their own opportunity to express their feelings about the matter directly, orally, to the inspector at the inquiry. It is understandable that they feel that they should have been heard, in the light of the undoubted impact that they believe that such housing would have; anyone else in the district would feel exactly the same if the decision had gone against them.
I am asking my hon. Friend the Minister to satisfy my worried constituents that the need for airport-related housing remains valid on the original assumptions, that Uttlesford district council has correctly interpreted the guidance from the Department of the Environment, and that the system not only allows justice to be done, but allows it to be seen to be done. At the moment, many people in Birchanger, Little Dunmow, Felsted and Takeley are not convinced. 1.13 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir Paul Beresford): I welcome the opportunity to discuss a difficult local problem. Uttlesford district council is planning to provide for housing that would be needed for the expansion of Stansted airport and the jobs that it will bring to the district.
I am abundantly aware, as is obvious, of the great anxiety of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) and many of his constituents about that issue, and I congratulate him on the explicit and emphatically clear way in which he has expressed
Column 309those anxieties in his speech. He made an apposite point when he said--I forget the phrase--something along the lines of, "People always express considerable concern when the decision goes against them." Before I respond to the anxieties described by my hon. Friend, it may be helpful if I briefly provide the background to the issues and mention some of the matters that my hon. Friend mentioned as background.
The Government are committed to a planning system that tries to ensure that land is used for purposes that meet the wider public interest. The key to that is the development plan. Our national planning policies underpin the whole system. A framework of regional planning guidance is built on that basis. Within that framework--in the shire counties--county councils construct strategic plans and district councils develop those strategic visions into local planning policies, some of which allocate specific sites for specific purposes.
We believe in involving local people in the process, not just those concerned with promoting development or specific interest groups in the plan area, but the local people who will be affected by the plan's proposals. To aid that, the plan-making process allows for formal public consultation at several stages from the first draft to the final amendments. I shall follow the Uttlesford local plan through those stages in a moment, but every local plan, as Members are aware, is a jigsaw of interlocking needs and choices over forthcoming years, and often represents a balance between a range of interests and viewpoints.
Once adopted, the development plan gives a measure of certainty to local people and would-be developers about what types of development are acceptable in specific districts. Planning applications must be decided in accordance with the development plan unless there are very strong reasons why they should not.
As we have chosen a system that encourages consultation, we must accept that, as a result, plans can take several years to progress from first thoughts to adoption and use for development control decisions. However, it is in everyone's interests to put the development plan in place. We have committed ourselves to complete coverage of local plans in the shire counties and unitary development plans in the metropolitan boroughs by the end of 1996. To date we have much more than 60 per cent. coverage, so I am confident--or reasonably confident--that we shall get close to the target. I therefore welcome the progress that has been made on the Uttlesford district local plan, although I understand very well the specific worries expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden and some of his constituents about the allocation of substantial numbers of new houses to meet projected future needs. That is the major issue in that local plan.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden said, the need for housing in Uttlesford is closely linked with the projected expansion of London Stansted airport. As London's third main airport, Stansted is intended, in part, to relieve pressure on the heavily used Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Stansted has already grown significantly since its terminal complex was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1991. By August 1994, it welcomed its 3 millionth passenger of the year, and it has the capacity to handle 8 million passengers a year.
Column 310Four thousand extra houses are already planned to meet the needs of airport workers and related businesses, spread between Uttlesford, with 900, Harlow with 1,100 and Bishop's Stortford, with 1,000. Many of those have already been built or are under construction. Even more growth at Stansted is expected and planning permission has been granted for the second phase of growth, from 8 million to 15 million passengers per year. However, that is subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament of an order increasing the current limit of 78, 000 air traffic movements per year.
We recognise that the airport is currently expanding at a slower rate than was first expected. The planned increase to 8 million passengers per year is unlikely to take place before the end of the 1990s.
In October 1994, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced his unilateral decision to allow United States and United Kingdom airlines to operate unrestricted transatlantic scheduled flights from all UK regional airports, and urged the US Government to respond positively to the offer. The decision could bring substantial benefits for London Stansted airport, among others. Several US airlines have expressed an interest in using Stansted, and the airport's managing director has predicted that that relaxation of the rules governing transatlantic scheduled flights might lead to a big increase in the number of people employed at the airport. It is, as I think has been outlined, a picture of expansion, of enhanced job prospects and a boost to the local economy, but that projected growth would have consequences that local planning authorities cannot ignore. It is estimated that, in time, a further 6,000 houses would be needed to accommodate those who would take up the jobs that the continued expansion would provide. It has been suggested that, because the growth of Stansted has not been as rapid as initially predicted, that housing may not be needed after all. We recognise that nobody can put precise figures on future growth, month by month and year by year, because it depends on demand for flights and controls over air traffic movements. But if we encouraged the county council and the district councils to defer considering the consequences of the national decision on airport expansion, we would be acting irresponsibly.
Forward planning is essential, and it is clear that suitable provision needs to be debated and identified through the local plan process. The Essex county structure plan's first alteration proposed to spread the provision between Uttlesford, with 2,500, Bishop's Stortford, with 1,500, Braintree, with 1,000, Chelmsford, with 500, and Colchester, with 500.
Uttlesford district council put its deposited draft local plan out to public consultation in April 1992. That plan looked ahead to the year 2001. It proposed that the 2,500 dwellings needed for the future growth of Stansted airport should be grouped in a new settlement at Little Easton, to be known as Easton Park.
As my hon. Friend is aware, a public local inquiry was held into objections to the plan between May and October 1993. The inspector who conducted the inquiry was in no doubt about the importance of Stansted to Uttlesford. In the introduction to his report he says: "In the Airport Uttlesford contains an economic engine-room of previously unparalleled local proportions".
Column 311He continues:
"I would hazard a guess that there is no other comparable rural area currently engaged in the local plan system which is obliged to consider the promise of such rapid change".
The inspector who conducted the inquiry was not convinced that the small new settlement proposed was the best solution. He recommended instead that the housing be distributed among four smaller sites--650 dwellings at the Felsted sugar beet works, 825 at north-east Takeley, 400 at Rochford nurseries and 625 at Buildings farm, Great Dunmow. It appears that he reached that view after hearing evidence on the Little Easton proposal and alternative sites. As my hon. Friend has said, the inspector declined to hear counter-objections to the alternative sites that were put forward. But he did take into account the written evidence presented. His report discusses the merits of all the sites in some detail.
The inspector is clearly aware, as his report says, that
"Felsted and Takeley are keenly opposed by local people". He draws attention to the nature of the various sites, whether high-quality agricultural land in the case of Easton Park or more neglected commercial, or even brown, sites in the case of Felsted sugar beet factory and Rochford nurseries. He considers the nature of existing settlements, development pressures, environmental conditions and traffic impacts.
The inspector reaches the conclusion that the four-site solution is consistent with the principles of sustainable development, and is fair in the sense that the impact of the additional housing would be spread across a wider area of the district at a scale which would not be significantly out of step with the most directly affected communities. He says that, of all the options before him, the combination of the four sites would cause the least intrinsic damage to the range of wider public interests that the planning system strives to protect.
The district council accepted the inspector's recommendation and published modifications to the plan, which provided for the housing associated with the growth of Stansted to be located in the four areas identified by the inspector. Those modifications introduce new policies into the local plan which require the layout and phasing of development at each of the four locations to follow principles set out in an overall master plan, which would form the framework for the consideration of planning applications. Each plan is to be approved by the council only after full public consultation, which means that local residents will be given the opportunity to express their views on the details of the development proposed for each site. That requirement for public consultation is not a suggestion buried in a footnote somewhere; it is built into the text of the policies. Objectors to the proposed modifications wanted a second public inquiry to reopen the debate on the alternative housing sites. However, after considering those objections, the council decided that no new matters had been raised and a second inquiry would not be justified. That is probably correct, in that it was a local plan and the local council, the local people's representatives, should make the decision. The council has now given formal public notice of its intention to adopt the modified plan on or after 14 April. As my hon. Friend explained, objectors remain dissatisfied with the council's decision. They also question whether the first inquiry was conducted properly. The conduct of the inquiry is a matter for the inspector
Column 312and evidence is heard at his discretion. Local plan inspectors report to the local planning authority, not to the Secretary of State, so he has no formal jurisdiction over the procedure adopted at the inquiry.
My hon. Friend draws attention to our planning policy guidance note 12, which provides advice on the conduct of all stages of the local plan process. That guidance has been reproduced in a booklet "Development Plans: What you need to know", which is aimed at the general public who want to be involved. That guidance considers the circumstances in which a second public inquiry may be necessary into a local planning authority's proposed modifications to its local plan. That is an important issue.
The guidance states:
"an inquiry into objections will be necessary only in exceptional circumstances, and it will not normally be necessary to hold a further inquiry into matters already considered. That includes instances where there are objections to modifications not proposed by an authority in response to the Inspector's report. The Secretary of State advises planning authorities to hold an inquiry where objections raise matters which were not at issue at all at the earlier stage. This may arise, for example, if it is proposed to substitute an entirely different proposal for one which was in the plan as considered earlier, so that the objections made to the proposed modification include new evidence."
I hope that that answers some of the points that were raised. The guidance does not say that a second inquiry should be held in every case where a different proposal is substituted for one in the original plan. It all depends on the extent to which there is new evidence--that is the crux of the matter. In every case where that question arises--and it arises not only in Uttlesford--we must decide whether the issues are "matters already considered" or
"matters which were not at issue at all".
Of course, there is not always a straightforward answer of yes or no--in fact, the phraseology is not too straightforward either. It may well be a matter of degree--was the consideration given to an issue satisfactory and sufficient? While my hon. Friend has concerns on such issues, it is clear that the inspector was satisfied that he had sufficient information to make a recommendation in favour of the four sites, and that Uttlesford district council considered the written objections to those sites before reaching the conclusion that a second inquiry should not be held. But those objectors, from Felsted and elsewhere, did not have the opportunity to cross-examine on the case for development in their villages.
My hon. Friend asks whether we can help his constituents and for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to intervene in the Uttlesford district local plan. The Secretary of State has the reserve power to call in all or part of a local plan for his determination and to arrange a further inquiry. That power has not, to date, been used. I think that my hon. Friend would agree that such action would cut across the thrust of the planning system. We want to take the local plan process out of the hands of the local planning authority only in extreme circumstances.
It might be suggested that the issue is a national one that justifies the Secretary of State's intervention because it springs from national decisions about airport capacity. I accept that there may be a measure of truth in that. But once such national decisions have been taken, it is surely right to leave it to the local people--in this case, the local district council in particular--to determine how those decisions should be implemented locally.
Column 313I understand and sympathise with the concerns of those of my hon. Friend's constituents who consider that they have not had the opportunity to express their views in public debate as well as in writing. Irrespective of what the outcome of that debate would have been, I can understand that the experience has left them unhappy with the local plan process. But I am not persuaded that the formal intervention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the Uttlesford district plan would be justified.
There are two possible avenues for those who are unable to accept the modifications which the council has made to the district plan. They may be unable to accept the modifications over the allocation of Stansted-related housing, either because they oppose one or more of the four sites chosen, or because they positively support the original Little Easton site. The first is to seek redress in the courts, either to prevent the council proceeding to adopt the district plan or by mounting a legal challenge to its adoption. I believe that some are contemplating that, and they will of course want to take legal advice before they proceed. I recognise, of course, that legal action is not an avenue which everyone will want, or can afford, to take.
Some might prefer the Government to short-circuit the process by saying that the local planning authority's decision was flawed. But we have no powers to do that; and in any case we have no locus to substitute our judgment on these complicated issues for that of the local authority.
The second course of action is to seek to influence the development briefs for the individual housing sites when they become available for public consultation.
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the important subject of the advertising of manufactured baby milk. I do not propose to speak for every minute of my allotted time because I have agreed that it would be appropriate to allow a contribution from the Labour Front Bench. That means that I shall not give way during my short speech.
As a male Cow and Gate baby, I speak on this subject with some diffidence. However, I recognise the importance of the subject, and particularly the pressures that women often believe are placed upon them in connection with it.
In 1981, the British Government signed the World Health Organisation international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes. The purpose of the code is to ensure that all carers, health workers and especially mothers receive totally impartial information and are protected from commercial pressures, to enable them to make informed decisions about feeding infants. It should be recognised that that information must include appropriate facts about artificial milk products, as not all mothers are able to breast-feed their babies successfully.
In 1990, the Government signed the Innocentri declaration, which committed them to
"taking action to give effect to the principles and aim of all the articles of the International Code . . . in their entirety". It also committed the Government to enacting
"imaginative legislation protecting the breastfeeding rights of working women . . . by the year 1995".
The Government White Paper "The Health of the Nation" called for an increase in the rate of breast-feeding in the United Kingdom. That call was widely welcomed. The Government continued to pay lip service to breast- feeding promotion by supporting the World Health Assembly resolution No. 47.5 of 9 May 1994. We were given one last reason to trust the Government's concern for breast-feeding over bottled formula when they released a proposal for draft regulations in December 1993. The proposals came close to meeting the criteria set out in the international code, although not completely.
However, the true measure of a Government's commitment is in the legislation that they pass. According to that standard, the Government have fallen far short of the promises and alleged commitments that they have made over the past 14 years in their 1995 regulations--Statutory Instrument No. 77--which have been in force for three weeks.
The proposed regulations met with mostly positive responses, despite some calls to strengthen them. The only calls for the draft to be weakened came from baby food producers and their advertising agencies. The Government answered their call with the present regulations, which allow advertising to mothers via
"publications specialising in baby care and distributed to women through the health care system".
Advice was obtained from 48 health, consumer and development organisations, including UNICEF, the British Medical Association, the British Paediatric Association, the Health Visitors Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, the National Consumer Council and the National Childbirth
Column 315Trust. However, their views were dismissed. The international code, to which I referred earlier, provides in articles 5.1 and 6.3 that "There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code . . . No facility of the health care system should be used for the purpose of promoting infant formula or other products within the scope of this Code".
However, the international code does not preclude the dissemination of information to a very restricted group--health care professionals. Regulation 17 of the new law flatly contradicts that code. It states:
"No person shall publish or display any advertisement for an infant formula except in a publication specialising in baby care and distributed only through the health care system".
That is very different from disseminating information only to health care professionals. For example, leaflets may be picked up in any doctor's surgery, clinic or hospital.
Putting aside the Government's policy U-turn, it is correct in this debate to address the reasons why internationally agreed restrictions on milk advertising are necessary or advisable. The most important reason is that breast milk is significantly better for infants than manufactured formula. In 1994, the standing committee on nutrition of the British Paediatric Association stated:
"evidence convincingly indicates that . . . significant advantages in cognitive assumption have been associated with breast feeding". Gastro- enteritis and other common infections are less likely among breast-fed babies. Breast-feeding is also better for mothers as it may reduce the risk of pre-menopausal maternal breast cancer. They are just three examples of the many advantages of breast-feeding which are set out in scientific evidence.
The manufactured baby milk industry spends quite a lot of money on advertising. According to the information available to me, it spends between £5 million and £7 million. That translates to about £6.40 per baby. The Government spend between £100,000 and £150,000 on promoting the advantages of breast-feeding, which translates to a measly 20p per baby. It is not a very equal contest.
If the Government were to persuade more mothers to breast-feed, it would save a lot of money. Based on the widespread health benefits of breast- feeding, UNICEF estimates that the national health service in England and Wales would incur an additional cost of £560,000 for treating infants with gastro-intestinal illness for every 1 per cent. reduction in the number of women electing to breast-feed. In other words, breast feeding saves the NHS a lot of money.
The new regulations permit advertisements for formula in "publications specialising in baby care and distributed to women through the health care system".
One presumes that the Government would argue that that allows mothers access to information on the relative contents of different brands of formula and thus enables them to make an informed choice. However, one has only to look at the information that is provided to see that that is not so. If the scientific information were disseminated widely, it would tax the most expert on the subject. That is why it is important for advertising to be restricted to those professionals who are best qualified to advise mothers on an objective basis.
Column 316That a ban on the advertising of baby milk formula would make a significant difference to breast-feeding rates is evidenced by the three European countries which have little or no advertising of manufactured baby milk products. The breast-feeding rate in Norway is 99 per cent., in Sweden it is 97 per cent. and in Denmark it is 98 per cent. On the other hand, in countries where the bulk of information about breast-feeding and formulas comes from the manufacturers of those formulas, the rate of breast-feeding is alarmingly low. In Scotland it is 50 per cent., in France it is 50 per cent. and in Ireland it is a miserable 31 per cent.
The advertising of infant formula in the health service is simply unacceptable. The national health service is no place for mothers to be turned on to a product that is not as good for the baby as the mother's own breast milk and not as good for the mother as giving her own breast milk.
Brand name advertising is selective. It reaches mothers at an early stage with information packs, free gifts and even videos going to maternity wards. Manufacturers provide only the information that they want to be known, and it is not impartial. It is the responsibility of the health service and of the Government to provide impartial and unbiased information. We must keep it in mind that a ban on advertising would not deny anyone the right to buy baby milk if they chose to do so; it would just make it more likely that they would seek balanced, expert and professional advice before they chose to use manufactured milk.
Our responsibility is to protect the best interests of those people who are unable to exercise their own personal choice--the babies. That is the reason for this debate.
Mr. Jones: I was not challenging your decision, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) has allowed me some time in his debate because he has raised an extremely important issue. He made a very good case and I endorse everything that he has said in his peroration. However, I should like to add one or two points, which need stressing.
The Government's draft proposals found favour, with virtually no dissent. I understand that, out of 231 letters sent, 216 replied in favour of a ban on advertising baby milk. It seems odd that the Government should carry out a consultation exercise and then not listen to the views of the professionals, which include 48 major health and consumer bodies, among them such organisations as the British Paediatric Association, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Midwives and the Health Visitors Association. All those organisations are concerned about the health of the infant and not about selling baby milk. They are concerned about giving women an informed choice, thereby providing them with the opportunity to give their children a better start, better health and all the other advantages of breast-feeding.
Column 317Article 6 of the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes produced by the World Health Organisation, which was mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman, states:
"No facility of a health care system should be used for the purpose of promoting infant formula or other products within the scope of this Code."
That is precisely what the infant formula follow-on regulations do--they allow the advertising of products for sale within the health care system and during the most vulnerable period for mothers who do not have the opportunity to exercise an informed choice.
Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Last year, I visited the special baby care unit in my constituency and I was horrified to discover that, although the mothers of those babies were able to express sufficient breast milk to feed them while they were in intensive care, as soon as they went home the majority of mothers stopped breast-feeding. Women are under great pressure not to breast-feed, and advertising which juxtaposes slogans saying that breast-feeding is best with the logo of the baby milk company is effectively saying, "Breast milk may be best, but you cannot harm your baby by feeding our formula." That is the wrong message. The message should be, "Feeding breast milk substitutes harms you and your baby."
Mr. Jones: Obviously, in some circumstances it is necessary for a substitute milk to be used, but they represent a tiny minority of cases. The vast majority of babies do better and gain advantages from being breast -fed.
By producing the regulations and not banning the advertising of formula milk, the Government have ignored the demands of 48 major United Kingdom health and consumer bodies. They have broken their agreement on the 1981 World Health Organisation code and, more importantly, they may have created serious dangers to the health of babies. The latest evidence suggests that breast-feeding not only protects babies against gastro-enteritis but affects long-term brain development, with a significant difference between the brain development of breast-fed and baby milk-fed children.
We are not anti-choice. Mothers must be given information, but it must be unbiased and mothers must take decisions based on the health of their children and on their own future well-being. We have heard how much money is spent on promoting breast-feeding, which I thought was nearer 9p per nursing mother, but baby milk manufacturers spend more than £6. That is ridiculous, but it shows how much pressure is being brought to bear on mothers to give their babies baby milk rather than to breast-feed.
Finally, we demand a full debate on the matter at the earliest opportunity. It should at least be considered in Committee, so that all the issues can be fully discussed, rather than in Adjournment debates, in which we are happy to take part, but which cannot fully examine all the pros and cons. The Government have made a serious mistake. They should change their mind and ban infant formula advertising as soon as possible.
Column 3181.46 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Angela Browning): Perhaps I should begin bdeclaring an interest in that I am a mother and a mother-in-law. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) for raising the subject. As a self-confessed Cow and Gate baby, he seems to have been nourished by, and thrived well on, the product. There is a great deal of interest about the subject. United Kingdom regulations, which include controls on the advertising of baby milks, were laid before Parliament on 16 January and came into force on 1 March.
I find it ironic that today the Government have been criticised for not going far enough because they have failed to ban the advertising of infant formula. Only last April, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, who was previously responsible for these matters, replied to a debate in the House and was criticised for going too far in proposing in the draft regulations to ban the advertising of infant formula to mothers.
Having been criticised from both sides, it seems that the Government have steered the right course in the regulations. With that in mind, I should like to set out for the House some of the background to the issue before I deal with the specific points that the hon. and learned Gentleman raised.
The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the World Health Organisation code. The United Kingdom fully supports the aim of the code, which is to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants by the protection and promotion of breast-feeding and by ensuring the proper use of breast milk substitutes.
I should clarify the fact that we totally endorse the need to encourage and inform on breast-feeding. We accept that it is the ideal method of feeding new-born babies. All mothers have to choose when to switch their babies from breast milk to powdered milk and, as the hon. and learned Gentleman admitted, some mothers cannot breast-feed. Adoptive parents and other small minority groups have also to be considered. I would not wish those women to be stigmatised or made to feel second-class mothers by any of the comments in the debate today.
Individual countries were left to decide how best to implement the recommendations of the WHO code. The UK Government decided that that could best be done through industry self-regulation. Following consultation with interested parties, a voluntary code of practice drawn up by the industry, in consultation with my Department and UK Health Departments, came into being in 1983, which gave effect to the WHO code's aims and principles. However, in the mid to late 1980s, the European Community started to consider the introduction of legislation, which is much tighter than a code. In 1991 the EC adopted directives on the composition, marketing and export of infant formulas and follow-on formulas.
Column 319While the EC directives implemented the aims and principles of the WHO code, they do not adopt its provisions in every detail. More importantly, the UK is required to implement the terms of the EC directive, not those of the WHO code. In the usual way, the Government considered the terms of the EC directives and drafted regulations to give effect to the directives in the UK, and a draft of the proposed regulations was issued for consultation in December 1993. The consultation generated a considerable response, most particularly about the extent of proposed controls on the advertising of infant formula.
Article 8 of the EC directive, which deals with advertising, states:
"advertising of infant formulae shall be restricted to publications specialising in baby care and scientific publications. Member states may further restrict or prohibit such advertising." That article's implementation led to this debate.
In July 1992, long before the draft regulations were issued for consultation, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, in answer to a written question, announced:
"The Government are committed to ensuring that the existing restrictions on marketing and advertising are, at least, maintained."--[ Official Report , 2 July 1992; Vol. 210, c. 680. ] Bearing in mind that commitment, the Government thought it only right at least to explore other options in the draft regulations. The draft regulations proposed that the controls on advertising should be far reaching, allowing advertisements to appear only in magazines whose intended readers would be professionals involved in maternal and baby care. It was no surprise that these proposed controls generated a considerable number of responses to the consultation from the public and from many hon. Members. In fact, the regulations were the subject of an Adjournment debate last April. In the main, reaction was split between two opposing views. One view was that, while supporting the advertising controls proposed, the Government should go even further and use the directive's option to its fullest extent to ban all advertising of infant formula. The opposing view was that we should not use the option at all and should stick to the minimum controls required by the directive.
The latter view drew attention to the Government's policy of deregulation and to the thrust of my Ministry's legislative programme--to introduce regulation as a last resort. There was also a strong feeling--one that I share--that such strict controls would impinge on a mother's right to have access to information. I emphasise that, in essence, we are putting into statute a provision that has existed in voluntary form for some time. That means professionals will give the advice.
Mr. Martyn Jones indicated dissent .