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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I have no difficulty with that at all. However, it undermines the amendment suggested by the noble Baroness concerning a UK regime. From what the noble Baroness has read out, let alone from what I said, there is no question of the Government waiting to see what happens. Yesterday we took action on misleading

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labelling in relation to country of origin. I have also mentioned the other action we are taking within the context of the EU and the world.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. I did hear her. I am just concerned that it is not happening now. We are consulting. If I were making a political point I would say that this Government are well known for consulting and not always for coming up with the goods.

I move on to the point I touched on briefly earlier. Within the UK the public find many different and varied quality assurance schemes. I had hoped that through these amendments we could tease out of the Government a greater commitment. If they do not like my amendments perhaps they will give us a commitment between now and Third Reading that they will come back with something that is constructive. I have listened with great care and due respect to the Minister, who I know is trying extremely hard--

Viscount Thurso: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Unless I completely misheard the Minister, I thought she said, in a very gracious part of her intervention, precisely that she would take away the proposal of the noble Baroness and consider it again. Frankly, that was one of the most conciliatory remarks I have heard on Report from a Minister. Perhaps I may make a small political point. If the party of the noble Baroness had been as conciliatory when in government, we would have accepted a great deal. I urge her not to press the amendment and to accept the offer.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am not sure whether I thank the noble Viscount for his intervention. I accept his remarks, although I do not necessarily agree with them. I have, indeed, listened. The Minister and I have discussed the whole issue of labelling. I am grateful for her response. However, that does not detract from the fact that there is great feeling around the House about the need for some form of labelling.

I accept the Minister's sincerity. I have never doubted it. I hope she realises that; I am sure she does. However, there is great concern. Providing she confirms the assurances she has given that she will go away and consider this matter again, I accept that. At this stage, with those great reservations and on the understanding that I wish to return to the matter at a later stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 14, at end insert ("through the establishment throughout the United Kingdom of nutrition standards").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 10. These two amendments deal with establishing nutrition standards throughout the United Kingdom.

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Amendment No. 10 looks at the whole situation, especially the issuing of advice on all aspects of nutrition.

Various government spokesmen at various stages of the Bill have assured us that the agency will have nutrition as one of its major responsibilities. However, the Government have steadfastly insisted that there shall be no overt reference on the face of the Bill to that duty. I confess to being totally perplexed by that stance. I have heard it said, and recently, that unbalanced diets, too much fat, too much sugar and not enough greens are probably responsible for more premature deaths than any other single cause. I do not know whether it is true but I can quote from various reports. The Health Education Authority issued a report this year called Improving diet and health through European Union Food Policies. The opening paragraph states that,

    "there is widespread international scientific agreement on the constituents of a healthy diet. However, neither the CAP nor any of the other policies of the European Union that affect the quantity, price and quality of food are designed to produce a healthy diet".

Among its recommendations are:

    "Health protection should not preclude health promotion--the former is enshrined in the Amsterdam Treaty, the latter is not".

    "Scientific committees, like the one in France that thinks our beef is unsafe, should stop concentrating solely on food safety and start to promote health".

The report continues:

    "There should be surveillance of food and nutrition intake, particularly among the old, children and low income families."

The list is quite lengthy. It left me in no doubt that nutritional issues are of major importance.

Is it not peculiar that a new agency, with a duty to protect public health and the food interests of consumers is not specifically charged with the establishment of nutritional standards? On 12th October in Grand Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, stated that the agency is expected to work closely with health-promoting bodies. Surely, research published by the Health Education Authority should be taken into account in establishing the agency's ground rules.

Amendment No. 10 inserts in Clause 7, at the end of line 29 on page 3,

    "especially the issuing of advice on all aspects of nutrition".

I have spoken at some length about the desirability of placing nutrition standards on the face of the Bill as part of the agency's statutory responsibility. In our view, that responsibility should also appear as part of the exposition of the functions of the agency. The provision of advice and information should include, from day one, on an ongoing basis, the results of the latest and most up-to-date research into nutrition.

Moreover, the agency should be at the forefront of research--organising, sponsoring and doing some of it. In the debate in another place Jeff Rooker stated that the agency will inherit a research function with a budget of about £25 million. Thirty per cent or so is to be spent on food and nutrition. That £8 million or more is a lot of money. It is more than has been spent

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this year on supporting farmers starting to convert to organic production methods, although we were pleased to hear earlier today of the extra money now coming their way. We wish to ensure that there is no way the agency can legitimately direct all that money to food research whether in response to pressure from sectional interests or in reaction to more and bigger food scares.

The question of nutrients is important. One example will suffice. This is taken, again, from the Health Education Authority report I have already mentioned. An iodine deficiency in the soil in an area of China was treated by putting iodine into the irrigation water. In the following three years, iodine levels in crops, vegetables and meat increased five fold. The benefit came in the form of fewer infant deaths and still births.

I, for one, am glad that the people of this island no longer exist on a diet of potatoes and turnip greens with occasional ham or scrawny chicken. However, I am increasingly aware that the importance of food choice has resulted in the most powerful food industry. That power, combined with a pervasive advertising industry, ensures that we are all bombarded with enticing information whose value is sometimes doubtful. For example, "95 per cent fat free" means "5 per cent fat". There is good fat and bad fat. Examination of contents labels indicates that the lower the total fat content of processed food, the higher the absolute content of bad fat. Has anyone the responsibility to alert the public to such a situation? Has anyone explored its effect on the growth of children, on heart patients or the very old? These are a few examples. There are many more. I beg to move.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment No. 23. We had a full debate in Grand Committee. I do not propose to repeat some of the arguments in favour of including nutrition on the face of the Bill. We had a considerable discussion on that subject. We wanted to ensure that nutrition was included on the face of the Bill because of our concern that the detail of the White Paper would be lost. To its credit, that document goes into considerable detail about the extent of the nutrition duties of the agency. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, read out paragraph 5.11 of the White Paper. I do not propose to do that. However, they are extensive and useful duties which we were concerned to see included.

The Minister made a useful statement in Grand Committee. She said:

    "I can say within the confines of this Committee that the Government are fully committed to the agency having a major role in nutrition and in diet; in it being a key part of its remit for protecting public health".--[Official Report, 12/10/99; col. CWH 37.]

She also said that the Government had no doubt that the agency's main objective in Clause 1 encompassed nutrition. I am sure she will repeat that today. We on these Benches took strong comfort from that statement. However, we feel that the place for nutrition and some of the greater detail about the

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duties of the agency should be in the general statement of objectives of the agency provided for by Clause 22. In fact, the Minister gave an undertaking in Grand Committee, saying, at col. CWH 39:

    "There may possibly be some opportunities for spelling that out [the nutrition duties] in other documentation that goes with the Bill";

and she asked for time to consider the matter.

It seemed to us a constructive way forward, hence our amendment on nutrition in Clause 22. That would give the opportunity to spell out the nutrition duties in some detail; not only the generality of nutrition, but also some detail in the general objectives provided for by Clause 22. It would place a duty on the agency to do that.

It may seem a narrow amendment, but the words, "related activities" are designed to bring in all the other points in the White Paper without those on these Benches being accused of producing a list. I know that Ministers and the draftsman have a horror of lists and I do not intend to produce one today. That is the reason for Amendment No. 23. We feel it to be a constructive way forward which gives the Government the opportunity to specify nutrition as part of the duties of the agency. We look forward to the Government's response.

I have one final question. Concerns have been expressed to us by the advertising industry about the nutrition duties of the agency and whether or not food advertising would be covered. I know there are some anxieties. There may be differing views as to whether or not that would be desirable, but guidance from the Minister as to whether or not she considers that to be within the duties of the agency would be extremely helpful.

5 p.m.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley: My Lords, I wish to say a few words in support of Amendments Nos. 4 and 10, having failed to get to the Public Bill Office in time to add my name to those of the sponsors.

As the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, reminded us, the Minister gave assurances in Grand Committee that the new agency would have a major role over nutrition and diet. But, like the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I find difficulty in getting my mind around the idea that a major Bill--the Food Standards Bill, incorporating the Food Standards Agency--will not have nutritional standards on its face. I am still concerned with the general principle, as opposed to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, who wants the matters of detail later. I would be sorry if, as we were with labelling, we were referred back to the Food Safety Act 1990. That was a long time ago and means reading a different Act to get the full picture.

I see a danger--I hope I am wrong--which I have mentioned before. We may be tending to focus narrowly on food scares and food scandals; for example, E-coli, BSE and so forth. The whole business we are facing is not just in relation to salmonella and a batch of eggs; it is not just about the nutritional content of food which is the subject of Amendment

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No. 23; nor is it quite the same as our old friend the "balanced diet". As I said in Grand Committee, referring to the 1991 WHO Report on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases, it is government policies on farming and food supply and the relationship with industry in the whole of the western world which have produced a culture of eating which is filling our hospitals. It is for that broad background that we want to make sure the agency has a remit. It needs an independent agency at arm's length from government to tackle this and to look at the nutritional problem in its widest sense. I repeat a plea therefore to have that on the face of the Bill.

I turn briefly to Amendment No. 10. I like the phrase, "all aspects of nutrition", because that takes in the wider context about which I was talking a moment ago--not just the short-term issues, but the deeper issues of long-term food policy. As I said also in Grand Committee, do not let us be frightened of nutritional advice. There is something about it that scares people. We take advice over many other areas but somehow food touches us deeply and we do not like being told what to do. I have said before and I shall say again; if, as a taxpayer, I am helping to fund research into nutritional matters, I feel it is my right--and I would be angry if I did not get it--to receive the product of that research and to hear what is or is not good for me to eat. I have no obligation to take that advice, but I want to hear it. Again, the agency is the right body to deal with that advice.

As a postscript, coming in on the Tube this morning I read an interesting fact. We are recommended to have one or two portions a week of oily fish. But MAFF has just discovered, in a survey of PCBs and dioxins, that if we do that, we shall be over our safe limit; or if not "we", at least children and "at risk" groups. Yet no advice is forthcoming. That is the kind of area where we need an independent agency to direct the public and not just to say, as people tend to say, "There is absolutely no risk in this." There is obviously some risk. It may be slight. We need good, intelligently-put advice. I therefore support both amendments.

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