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House of Lords

Wednesday, 18th November 1998.

The House met at half-past two of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by The Lord Bishop of Blackburn): The PRINCIPAL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Food Standards Agency

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have abandoned their proposal to establish a food standards agency.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My Lords, the Government remain committed to setting up a food standards agency. I cannot, however, anticipate the Queen's Speech.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, the noble Lord will not be accused of letting anything out of the bag! Is the Minister aware of how welcome the announcement back in January was that the old, arbitrary, uncertain and often bullying methods of enforcement were to be replaced by,

    "modern, open arrangements which will deliver real improvements in standards"?
Is that wonderful prospect now to be indefinitely delayed? I am also anxious to know whether, after all that has been said, it is possible for manifestos to be thrown overboard.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the noble Lord, with his great experience, will know far more than I about throwing manifestos overboard. I can state with complete assurance that the commitment to establish a food standards agency was, as he suggests, in our manifesto. It was in our White Paper, which he quoted with great learning. The commitment was repeated by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons three weeks ago. The precise timing, of course, was not a commitment. We await the Queen's Speech and a statement by my right honourable friend shortly after the Queen's Speech to establish that.

As regards the behaviour, as it were, of the enforcement authorities, I share totally the noble Lord's view and the intentions that were set out in the White Paper; namely, that enforcement should be conducted in a proper way. Of course enforcement must be firm in order to secure the food standards in which we believe. Under the food standards agency, enforcement will remain with local authorities but the new agency will take over the Meat Hygiene Service and will co-ordinate local authority enforcement in order to ensure high and continuing standards. Like the noble Lord I assume that "little Napoleons" will not be involved in seeking high standards.

Lord Rea: My Lords, while I cannot ask my noble friend to anticipate what his right honourable friend will

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say in his statement after the Queen's Speech, can he assure us that it will confirm that the Government need to follow the general lines outlined in the White Paper, particularly that--I quote my noble friend's words of Monday--

    "food safety and food health should be separated from the producer side"?--[Official Report, 16/11/98; col. 891.]

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those comments. That is the basic principle of separation, which is mentioned on page two of the White Paper. I cannot comment on what will be contained in the Queen's Speech, but whether it contains legislation or whether for the moment it does not, I believe that principle should remain in place. That should be the basis on which the new arrangements are progressed.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that there is a serious problem of an increase in food poisoning and resistance to infection control? Who should do the monitoring?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. That is one of our main concerns and a main concern of the Department of Health. It is in order to monitor and secure better standards of food safety that we propose to set up the food standards agency. It will operate as an independent agency but will report to the Department of Health. At that stage, to my great relief, questions will be directed towards my noble friend.

Ordnance Survey Maps

2.35 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Ordnance Survey is no longer depicting county boundaries on its maps and whether it will revert to the original method of including both county and administrative data.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, Ordnance Survey is obliged by an 1841 Act of Parliament to ascertain certain boundaries. The current administrative areas depicted on Ordnance Survey maps are the modern equivalent of those described in the 1841 Act.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply. I am disappointed that she is answering the Question today on behalf of the Government rather than one of the other Front Bench Peers because I want to dwell on the situation in Lancashire. Is my noble friend aware that we in Lancashire are proud of our county and our county boundaries whether we come from Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool, Blackburn or the administrative county? We are proud also that we are a duchy. Our magistrates are not appointed by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor but by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Will my noble friend do all in her

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power to try to persuade the Ordnance Survey to re-institute the county boundaries as many of us are proud of that area?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, as a happy resident of Lancashire and as the mother of a proud Lancastrian, I assure my noble friend that I am fully aware of the pride that those of us who are Lancastrians by birth or choice have in the most beautiful county in England.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I stress that that is not a government policy statement. I understand that magistrate appointments are based on petty sessional divisions determined by the Lord Chancellor's Department. At the moment the Ordnance Survey does not have a record of the Duchy of Lancaster boundary on maps. However, I assure my noble friend that when people reach agreement about which historic boundary of Lancashire they wish to see on an historic Lancashire map, that can be produced, although it would be a special production and expensive.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I declare an interest as my full geographic title is McNally of Blackpool. Is the Minister aware that these scandalous maps exclude Blackpool as well as Blackburn from the county of Lancashire? What is it about new Labour that, first of all, you steal our red rose, then you tell Blackpool it is not posh enough for your party conference, and now you seem to imply that residents of the Paris of the north cannot have the toast, "Her Majesty the Queen, Duke of Lancaster"?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am utterly convinced that no one in the Labour Party stole the red rose. We allow people to share it. The noble Lord could apply for membership. I, too, believe it is extremely important to have recognised that those who live in Blackpool and particularly those who were born in Blackpool see themselves as Lancastrians, as do noble Lords who were born in Southport when Southport was in Lancashire.

It is also true that many people born in areas that once were in Lancashire--as long as 100 years ago--still see themselves as Lancastrians. I am sure that no one wishes to deprive the people of Blackpool of their right to be Lancastrians, but, administratively, they are part of the new county of Blackpool.

Viscount Addison: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that on Ordnance Survey maps many rights of way and "BOATs"--that is, byways open to all traffic--are not appearing to the extent that they did in the past? Some of those rights of way are no longer on the newer "Pathfinder" maps. Can anything be done to ensure that in future rights of way in particular are more clearly marked and transferred from the original maps to the new print?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I should be delighted to take up any particular examples

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or concerns that the noble Viscount has. Occasionally, particular rights of way and routes fall into disuse. I well remember my husband trying to navigate us on an old "white" road through the Welsh mountains. To our horror, we discovered that he was intending to drive us into a dam and a reservoir that had been created since the map was published. Some rights of way fall into disuse, but I shall certainly look into this point for the noble Viscount.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the European Commission has already drawn up, and has had ready for the past two years, a completely new map of the European Union, divided into the regional and local administrative areas that it requires, and that in due time, unless somebody somewhere, from here or from another place, intervenes, all counties will disappear under the new European regime?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I have never seen the sort of map to which my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington refers. As a former member of the Committee of the Regions, I know that within the European Union the various levels of local government are depicted on the maps that it uses for reference to functions and areas within. I also understand that the needs of particular regional areas are considered by the European Union when formulating its policies. I stress to my noble friend that the needs of those of us who live in the north west, whether in Blackpool, Preston or Manchester, may vary from the needs of those in the south west or the south east. On occasion, it is useful to have those different regional areas.

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