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Lord Rea: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for allowing me to intervene. He mentioned the names of the professionals through whom infant formula information is given. I understood that that was a stipulation in the draft regulations that has been withdrawn from the current regulations. Is the noble Earl saying that those professions are the only ones through which the information is given now? Is it stated in the current regulations or in the draft regulations?

Earl Howe: My Lords, in the current regulations, advertising is permitted only through the healthcare system and certain publications. I am not sure whether the noble Lord referred to the point that I just made in response to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, about labelling. My point was that, as I said earlier, healthcare professionals are in the business of advising mothers and mothers-to-be about the best ways of feeding their babies. If they are conscientious, as we know them to be, they will draw attention to the risks and benefits associated with either method.

As I was saying, the noble Lord, Lord Rea, asked me what progress was being made by the working party implementing the regulations. I assume from the noble Lord's remarks that he was referring to the group set up by the Department of Health to prepare the "Secretary of State's guidelines" as referred to in Regulation 21(3) (b). These are guidelines in respect of the donation of educational and informational equipment or material by manufacturers and distributors of infant formula. The working group comprises representatives from the appropriate healthcare professions, industry and Baby Milk Action. The Department of Health intends to issue draft guidelines based on the work of this group for consultation towards the end of the summer, with a view to issuing the final guidelines by the end of the year.

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The noble Lords, Lord Rea and Lord Monkswell, referred to the difference in the Government's attitude towards tobacco advertising and advertisements for infant formula. Both noble Lords will be aware from what I said that we have not banned advertisements for infant formula. We have set limits on where they may appear, bringing them very much under the influence of the healthcare professions. A person's decision to smoke tobacco is one that directly impacts on him or her as an individual. The Government believe that voluntary agreements with the tobacco industry provide the best way of controlling its advertising and promotion. A mother's choice of feeding method, however, bears directly on her baby. For that reason, we believe that mothers should have the opportunities to talk through all the issues surrounding this decision with an appropriate healthcare professional. The restrictions on the advertising of infant formula have been developed to protect and promote breast-feeding so as to encourage mothers to give their child the best possible start in life.

We considered most carefully the comments of those who responded to the consultation exercise and the views of another place before deciding the final form of the regulations. I am therefore aware of the great strength of feeling that this issue understandably generates from all sides of the argument. The Government remain committed to the promotion and protection of breast-feeding as the best means of nurturing a baby. However, we also remain convinced that mothers have the intelligence to decide for themselves what is best for their baby, and that this limited form of sensible and responsible advertising will not cloud their judgment. I believe that the balance we have struck is the right one.

Lord Rea: My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may state for the record that the figure of £100,000 spent by the Government on promoting breast-feeding that was attributed to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, should have been £150,000. Perhaps the noble Earl can tell me whether that is the true figure.

Earl Howe: My Lords, my understanding is that the cash sum expended on promotional material was something of the order of £130,000 to £150,000, but I will take further advice. It is in that region. My point, however, was that there is a hidden effort, as it were, or a hidden sum of money being spent on the promotion of breast-feeding through the day-to-day work of healthcare professionals whose job it is to advise mothers. That is an extremely important element in the Government's effort to promote breast-feeding among the many other initiatives that we have taken.

Sheffield Assay Office Bill

Returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

        House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before eight o'clock.

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