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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her full response to my two amendments. Perhaps I can pick up on a couple of points, in all humility. I was not saying that consultation should not take place. I was trying to suggest that we have been consulting and consulting and not moving forward. I would hate anyone to think I do not believe in consultation; obviously I do. But there comes a time when one must move forward. I am aware of the meetings the Food Advisory Committee has in hand at the moment and I welcome them.

The noble Baroness spoke of labelling and touched on the GM situation in response to her noble friend Lord Hardy. In fact, on the organic side one does not label country of origin. Because of the nature of the way the organic system is operated, we can trace where the product has come from. Perhaps I can hand that issue back to the Government for their consideration. I do not want us to end up with lots of different systems, which is another worry.

The Minister also said that she was referring to "meat" particularly as meat. Obviously meat coming to this country is as of a piece of meat, but it is processed here. Therefore, after being processed, some of that food will still carry the British label. That is the one aspect which greatly concerns many people both inside and outside the Chamber.

However, I do not want to nit-pick today because this is not the moment so to do. I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for having met us to discuss these matters, and to other noble Lords for being so generous in their comments. I am trying to find the right words to say; indeed, I am slightly embarrassed. This is a very serious issue. That is why I have been so "tenacious", to use the Minister's expression, in trying to get something on the face of the Bill.

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I am immensely grateful to the Minister. Perhaps I may also express my thanks to her for tabling her amendment, which we on these Benches are very happy to support. I wish the House to know that my difficulty was that I did not have sight of the amendment until it was too late to attach my name to it. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 [Development of food policy and provision of advice, etc. to public authorities]:

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 7 [Provision of advice, information and assistance to other persons]:

[Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Acquisition and review of information]:

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Clause 9 [General functions in relation to animal feedingstuffs]:

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

4 p.m.

Clause 11 [Power of entry for persons carrying out observations]:

The Earl of Radnor moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 5, line 11, at end insert ("(including conditions relating to hygiene precautions to be taken while exercising powers in pursuance of the authorisation)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, perhaps I may take this amendment and Amendment No. 9 together, although I shall move the second one separately. I do so simply because they are absolutely identical in their wording. They stem from my fear that although these authorised people with written permission, and so on, who will make such visits--first, to observe and, secondly, to monitor and, if necessary, take action--will be subject to fairly stringent rules, such rules are very unspecific. Having a small knowledge of the matter, my fear is that they might offend against the rules of hygiene which apply in some of the plants they visit.

I do not think anyone would dream of breaking the law, or anything of that sort. Indeed, there are many inspectorates in our country; they are all probably extremely good and well behaved. However, the point I made in earlier debates was that the law is not necessarily the final consideration in a plant where one might be making pork pies--or, in my case, processing fish. We all have to keep to the law, but it is important to obey the rules that are so often laid down by the purchasers. Very often these days the purchasers are the supermarkets, which, I believe, sell something like 70 per cent of our food. Their rules tend to be very stringent. Moreover, if an operator breaks those rules, they soon find out, or soon might find out. As I have said many times, a business can be seriously harmed by the withdrawal of custom from one of these big organisations or perhaps from a series of smaller ones.

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The wording of the amendments is perfectly simple. I was grateful to be invited by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, to discuss this matter to see whether we could find a sensible meeting point. I believe that we have done so by way of the wording of the amendments which refers to,

    "conditions relating to hygiene precautions to be taken while exercising powers in pursuance of the authorisation".

I believe that wording to be permissive, not mandatory. When I took the matter away and thought about it, I could see all sorts of difficulties in a mandatory situation. I was very grateful to receive help in drafting the amendments. I think that I may have been driving the Public Bill Office fairly mad by drafting a series of amendments myself. That pleased me but it was not achieving the meeting point that we were seeking.

I believe that in this important matter we have struck the right note with the amendments. I hope that they will be looked upon favourably by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I beg to move.

Viscount Thurso: My Lords, it is my understanding that these amendments are acceptable to the Government. If they had to have a label as to area of origin, it would not be surprising if they were acceptable to the Government. I congratulate the noble Earl on having been so tenacious right from the very first informal meeting we had. Indeed, through every stage he has stuck to his guns; and very good guns they were. Having told the noble Earl that I could not support him if he divided the House on Report, I am extremely glad that he has achieved a compromise that is satisfactory in his eyes. We on these Benches offer him our full support.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I express my support for my noble friend Lord Radnor. As has been said, he has raised this issue at every stage of the Bill's proceedings. Indeed, both he and I gave exact examples of where businesses could find themselves in very difficult circumstances if basic hygiene rules which applied to their operations were not observed by persons who might visit their property. I am extremely delighted to think that the Minister may be able to accept this compromise. I, too, congratulate my noble friend on his persistence in getting what is a very important provision on the face of the Bill.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, perhaps I may join the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, in expressing my gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, for bringing forward these two amendments. We discussed the matter in some detail on Report, especially the need to ensure that authorised persons, and those accompanying them, take proper hygiene precautions before exercising the powers of entry.

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As I said on Report, this is a very important issue. We agree that it would be completely unacceptable for any officer of the agency to put a business at risk by behaving unreasonably or carelessly or by failing to take the proper hygiene precautions. However, at that time, we had some difficulty with the way that the noble Earl had drafted his amendment. I am glad to say that my noble friend and I subsequently had a very helpful discussion with the noble Earl. In the light of that discussion, I am happy to say that the Government entirely support the useful amendments he has now brought forward. They have the effect of ensuring that any authorisation given to use the powers of entry may include a requirement to follow particular conditions to ensure that the necessary hygiene precautions are taken.

I know that the noble Earl wishes to have some certainty that appropriate hygiene rules will be followed. I want to give him an assurance that any authorisations issued by the agency under these provisions will include conditions that ensure authorised officers follow the precautions already laid down for enforcement officers in Code of Practice 9, which I mentioned on Report. That code requires officers to observe,

    "any reasonable food safety precautions which are required by the company or organisation under inspection".

I am happy to give the noble Earl that commitment.

This means that the authorisation itself, which the authorised officer has to show on request, will indicate that he should follow any reasonable rules which are in place. I believe that that will give the noble Earl the kind of reassurance that he seeks. I can also assure him that the agency will ensure that any accompanying person--another matter raised on Report--will also follow the same rules. As I mentioned previously, the accompanying person is likely to be a food hygiene official of the European Commission's food and veterinary office, who would be accompanying the agency's official in order to audit the UK's compliance with EU directives. I believe that such an official would have a particular interest in making sure that proper hygiene practices were followed, even if those were stricter than the requirements of the law.

When we discussed this matter previously we talked mainly about the powers of entry in Clause 14, which refers to the monitoring enforcement action of enforcement authorities. However, as the noble Earl's amendments make clear, there are similar powers in relation to the powers to carry out observations in Clause 11 and we agree it is sensible that the same provision should be made in both places. This has been an extremely useful debate through all stages of the Bill. I commend the noble Earl's amendments to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14 [Power of entry for monitoring enforcement action]:

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