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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her full and helpful response. Assurances were given in the Grand Committee, but we do not see them on the face of the Bill. The noble Baroness again assured her

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noble friend Lord Rea of the importance of nutrition, but it does not seem to be sufficiently important to find its way on to the face of the Bill. It made me a little worried about the position concerning my previous amendment on labelling, but I will leave that aside.

My first amendment was intended to establish a common standard throughout the United Kingdom, with particular reference to the new devolved parliaments. We certainly do not wish to see different standards set for different parts of the United Kingdom, and that is why I included it in my amendment. I would have thought that spoke for itself.

My second amendment referred specifically to the issuing of advice on all aspects of nutrition, and I would have thought that was something the Government would have welcomed. However, they clearly have reservations about that.

I am well aware that the Bill is concerned with setting up an agency, but that agency is to look after food, food safety and food standards. Perhaps that is why we are somewhat laboriously going over some of these very important issues. If you want to buy a car, it does not matter so much, but something you eat has a direct effect on lifestyles and everyday living. Although health is the lead agency, as I know only too well to my cost, having tried to get it put on the face of the Bill, the noble Baroness will remember that she said that "the Secretary of State" could not be defined as the Secretary of State for Health. In fact, however, that was the person concerned, and it made me smile to think that here we are, discussing again, but not solving, some of the problems that were raised earlier.

Like other noble Lords, I shall welcome the setting up of the new scientific advisory committee on nutrition. I am sure it will have an important role. I thank noble Lords who have spoken and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Appointment of members etc.]:

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 4, at end insert--
("( ) In making the appointment the appropriate authorities shall ensure that the balance of membership of the Agency shall reflect the populations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 5. The agency is comprised of a chairman, a deputy chairman and between eight and 12 members. Two of the latter will be appointed from Scotland and one each from Wales and Northern Ireland. There are to be advisory committees for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not necessarily for England. The population of Wales is under 4 million; of Northern Ireland under 2 million; of Scotland under 6 million; and of England more than 47 million. On that basis England should have 15 members, as compared to the two for Scotland and the one each for the others. However, the maximum England can have is eight, assuming that the agency includes 12 members.

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We have heard during earlier stages of the Bill that the agency is to be overarching. We have also heard that there are marked differences in the incidence of food-borne diseases between the territories that make up the United Kingdom. There is here an implicit contradiction. The impartiality of the agency might be questioned in a situation where the need to act throughout the United Kingdom could be influenced by a strong sectoral interest. Such a position would be more likely were the balance of the agency to be weighted by having, say, three or four members from any one of the devolved territories. There are those who would comment that such is the position of the Government, which is composed of considerably more Scottish MPs than is justified by the ratio of all the MPs in Parliament. However, the Government are a much larger body than the food standards agency, and subject to rather more scrutiny and open working than the agency will be. It is important that the composition of the latter be representative of its responsibilities. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, my Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are linked with that of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. Amendment No. 6 calls for the establishment of an advisory committee for England. In the course of a 30 minute debate in the Grand Committee I felt there was a strong feeling that England needs an advisory committee. There is a question of imbalance if there is not one. There is a real possibility that in creating an agency in its own image the Government will appoint not only two Scottish parliamentary nominees but other Scots as well to the panel of eight to 10 members.

There is also the question of representation. England, as my noble friend has pointed out, is nearly twice the size of Scotland, with a higher proportion of land devoted to agriculture, and England has four times the population of the other three taken together. England is to the United Kingdom as France is to Europe, in terms of the passage of imports and exports across its territory. Four to eight ordinary members cannot hope to reflect the balance of interests across England.

True, the Bill makes provision for the Secretary of State to direct that an advisory committee for England can be established, but says that he should do so after consultation with the agency. I have difficulty in imagining how he will actually take this step. Will he in practice take advice from his chairman? Will he decide that the agency's decisions are unbalanced, call them together, give them X weeks to improve and then act? Or will perhaps in-fighting or a failure to agree signal the need for greater balance? It sounds impossible, but sometimes impossibilities do happen. Why do we not just have done with it and create one for England from the start?

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, there are 11 lines in this Bill dealing with these advisory committees and I find it very peculiar indeed that we do not refer to England, except in subsection (2). It really seems to me to be a classic case of "too many words", a phrase that we

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have often heard used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I would have thought that it would have been very much easier just to say that there shall be an advisory committee for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, and remove the reference to the three advisory committees on page two, and then cut out the whole of Clause 5(2), as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Byford. I should be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that.

5.30 p.m.

The Earl of Radnor: My Lords, these amendments all say roughly the same thing. It seems sensible that England should be represented in the way that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Luke, suggest. Of the amendments proposed I prefer that combination. However, I am intrigued by the criteria that are used. On a Bill such as this I would not select people on the basis of where they come from. I would select them purely on the basis of their knowledge of food. If all the candidates live in Land's End, so be it. However, having said that, I support strongly the combination proposed by the noble Baroness.

Viscount Thurso: My Lords, this is an interesting little debate that goes back to our old friend, devolution. I shall not remind your Lordships that at this time a year ago we trolled through the Scotland Act. This matter conveys a tremendous sense of deja vu.

I believe that there is a fundamental misunderstanding as regards what the Bill is trying to achieve and what the amendments seek to change. I believe that there is a difference between Amendment No. 5 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. Amendment No. 5 seeks to insert in Clause 2(2) a requirement that the Bill should have regard to the population spread of each of the devolved countries. I believe that the noble Lord referred to them as the devolved territories. I hope that was not a Freudian slip. We in Scotland like to think of ourselves as a country. I am sure that was simply a slip on his part.

In fact there is nothing in Clause 2(1) that specifies that any of these people should be Scots, Welsh or anything else, or indeed English. It refers merely to two members who may be appointed by Scottish Ministers and to one member who may be appointed by the National Assembly for Wales and so on. That matter concerns essentially the structure of devolution and the fact that the powers to enact the legislation lie with those assemblies rather than a requirement to keep the ethnicity of the committee in balance.

The real point--I think that this is a serious point--is that the committee is a UK agency and whether we are born ethnic Scots, ethnic English or ethnic Welsh, we are all UK citizens. Therefore we are all eligible, or rather anyone else is eligible--we are not because we are all disqualified--to become a member of the agency. While the noble Lord has raised an important point that moves away from the thrust of the matter.

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Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 concern a different issue. In Grand Committee I expressed great sympathy with the noble Baroness on this matter. I believe that I said I would be interested to hear what the Government had to say about the matter. I have come to the conclusion that great sympathy is parliamentary code for, "I am now going to explain to you why I like the idea but I am not going to vote for it". I still have great sympathy with the noble Baroness but the nub of the matter is we are discussing a UK body. I believe that in Committee the Minister assured us that all of the devolved countries had agreed that the matter was best served by having a UK agency. Therefore everyone in the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly is content that the body should be a UK agency, but the problem is that last year we told them that they had the power to deal with this matter. Therefore the devolved legislative competence lies in Wales and Scotland. Therefore I assume that the committees have been included in the Bill to deal with that matter.

While I thought originally that it would be an excellent idea to have a committee for England because, after all, as a Liberal Democrat I am a committed federalist and "home ruler" and that would be a wonderful way to deal with that, I then thought that one should take completely the opposite course. I believe that the real answer to this--I ask the Minister to consider this--is to have no committees at all. In devolving power we created, particularly in Scotland--I am less knowledgeable about the situation in Wales--a committee system whereby the Parliament itself could establish committees to deal with these issues. I believe that this is a perfect example of where the Scottish parliamentary committee system could be brought into play. However, I am sure that there is some great technical reason why that is not possible. Nevertheless, I hope that I have explained why I have great sympathy for the amendments but could not possibly support them.

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