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Baroness Byford: I rise to support my noble friend's two amendments. If it does not seem impertinent, perhaps I should remind all present that we are now in Committee and not on Second Reading.

I believe that the purpose of my noble friend's amendments is to bring to the Government's attention the need to restore public support and understanding. With these two amendments, my noble friend merely seeks to provide adequate research time before the final approval to go ahead is given, and to put an end date on the research time. With those few remarks I should like to support my noble friend.

Lord Carter: The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that her experiences on the GLA Bill and the number of government amendments to that Bill have persuaded her to introduce all these amendments. The government amendments to the GLA Bill are in response to points which were made in the other place. The noble Baroness is now seeking to amend her own Bill in Committee. Perhaps that says something about the drafting of the Bill in the first place.

All the points included in these amendments are already within the power of the Secretary of State under the existing Act and regulations. I reiterate that under the current legislation, no genetically modified organism or plant may be released for any purpose without the express approval of the Secretary of State. All approver's research is already under time limit. Reports of research, including effects on human health and the environment, already must be submitted during and after release. The Secretary of State already has powers for acquiring all the information necessary to reach a decision before a commercial release is authorised. Under the current provisions, applications for both research releases and commercialisation of GM crops are in the public domain, together with all the supporting evidence submitted by the companies. It would now be quite inappropriate for that information also to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

As regards the disposal of the crop material which may be produced during a research programme, the fate of such produce is already stipulated in the consent granted by the Secretary of State. If it does not already have clearance for human consumption or animal feed, its use for that purpose will be prohibited in the consent. Procedures for termination and research release are already stipulated in the consent.

All consents and the supporting documents are held on a public register, available for viewing at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the

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Regions. Copies may be obtained by post on request. The Committee will not be surprised to hear me say after that that it is therefore quite unnecessary to lay that information before Parliament. If the noble Baroness wants to amend her own Bill, that is of course entirely up to her.

Lord Skelmersdale: Before my noble friend replies, is the noble Lord the Chief Whip telling us that no Bill produced by this Government has ever been amended by the same Government in Committee?

Lord Carter: The introduction of amendments in Committee to the GLA Bill has obviously had an effect on the noble Baroness, which I can understand. They were tabled after considerable debate in the other place and in response to points made there. I was interested to learn that that Bill required so much amendment only yesterday. In the kindest possible way, I wondered if that had the slightest relationship to the original drafting of the Bill.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: Before I respond to specific points, I should like to respond to the noble Lord the Chief Whip who is responding to my amendments on behalf of the Government. In the first instance, when one introduces a Private Member's Bill, one does not have the galaxy of all the officials to help with its drafting. It may well be that one has not finished drafting it until six o'clock the night before, or five o'clock, or whenever. These amendments were in fact tabled by lunchtime yesterday. I should just like to remind the noble Lord of that point. In fact, the Greater London Authority Bill has not been amended solely because the Government were responding to points raised. They themselves admitted that many of the clauses were not clear and that the amendments were there to clarify them.

Lord Carter: Will the noble Baroness agree that that is the last time that we should mention the GLA Bill?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: Yes, provided that the noble Lord does not mind if I mention the Employment Relations Bill.

I understand the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and where he is coming from, but I remind him that at Second Reading he was grateful for the way in which I introduced the Bill. He said that there was no great objection to the Bill, although he was not certain that it was needed. He made the point today that he does not think that the amendments which I have tabled are needed because of the scientific experience and advice which he has received. I must remind the noble Lord that there have been conflicting learned and high-level scientific opinions. That is one of the points of the Bill. It is for that reason that I believe that the public are concerned about this issue.

I should say to the Minister that I was expecting him to say that these amendments are not necessary. But if they are not necessary, it will not be harmful to include them. The advantage would be that the description of what the Secretary of State will do can be found in one

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place in the Bill, whereas normally one has to look to other Bills to find where the Secretary of State's powers are described.

With regard to the point made by my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, when I come to speak to Amendment No. 9 it will probably help to clarify that position a little. I am grateful for the comments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 16, at end insert ("and has undertaken consultations on the research with such expert bodies as are concerned with the preservation of the natural environment that he considers appropriate")

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 1, with the leave of the Committee, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 2 also.

At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that when addressed by my noble friend Lady Miller a shudder went through his spine. I am sorry that he is in Brussels today, but I am delighted that the Government Chief Whip is to reply because this concerns a purely farming point. With myself and the Government Chief Whip being two of the agriculturists in the House, I hope that I shall receive a satisfactory response.

Before the Secretary of State grants permission for the release of GM organisms, I believe it is absolutely right that he should consult widely, not just the scientists, from whom one has differing and conflicting opinions, but also the environmental and farming communities. That is why in Amendment No. 1, I have mentioned those concerned with "the natural environment" and in Amendment No. 2,

    "the consulted representatives of the farming industry". It is quite normal for Secretaries of State to consult members of the farming industry. It has happened for many years. That is not an onerous task and it can probably be included in other meetings that the Secretary of State holds. I hope that my noble friend will warmly accept these amendments. I beg to move.

1 p.m.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: No doubt the Minister will expect me to speak on this subject. I thank my noble friend Lord Caithness for introducing the subject of organic farming. As Members of the Committee know, I am patron of the Soil Association, which has asked for a cordon sanitaire of six miles around areas where genetically modified crops are grown. That may be considered a rather large requirement. Scientists from Cornell University have suggested that a two-kilometre cordon sanitaire should be available because they understand that bees can carry disease across such a distance.

In this country we have a densely farmed agricultural community, unlike America where vast areas of land can happily and easily be converted to genetic modification without interfering with anything else.

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Therefore, it is important that in this country we should have sufficient controls. For that reason, I warmly support the amendment tabled by my noble friend.

Lord Carter: I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for his kind words about my farming experience. I should point out to him that I used to be a farmer, but now I speak for the Government!

The effects of these amendments is to require that the results of research on the effect of the use of genetically modified crops are considered by expert bodies concerned with preservation of the natural environment before consent is issued. The current legislation already requires the applicant to have carried out research to demonstrate that the crop will not cause harm to the environment and that the Secretary of State must consult expert advice, such as the relevant committees, including the statutory nature conservation bodies, before granting a consent, so both the provisions of the Bill and the amendment are unnecessary.

The second amendment seeks consultation with the farming industry, including organic farmers, before consent is granted. Again the current legislation allows for the views of the farming industry and other interested parties to be taken into account before a decision is taken to grant a consent. As I have said, we feel that the amendment is unnecessary. If the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, wants to accept the amendment, we shall follow the usual convention and not object from these Benches.

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