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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the order and are aware that since 1994, when the Milk Marketing Broad ceased, the lack of any generic promotion has led to a considerable drop, year on year, in the consumption of milk in this country. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, mentioned children drinking milk. I think this order will apply to all ages. I hope the promotion will enable young children, both pre-school and at school, to be re-weaned--if you like--off fizzy drinks and back on to milk, and indeed for people of our Lordships' ages and older, to be encouraged to be drinking Ovaltine and cocoa instead of a whisky at night. In saying that, I mean no disrespect to my Scottish colleagues. Luckily my noble friend Lady Linklater has left, otherwise I am sure she would be defending the whisky industry.

Perhaps I may ask a couple of questions of the Minister. I should like to know what proposals there are to evaluate the effectiveness of the scheme, perhaps after 12 months of its life. Also what measures will be used to evaluate its effectiveness. Although I appreciate it is a generic scheme, which does not apply especially to British milk, the last section says:

We often hear about the contribution of farmers to the maintenance of the countryside; does the phrase "services supplied" cover the way in which the countryside is looked after by dairy farmers. It is a connection that we have often made in your Lordships' House about the contribution of farmers not only in producing the food that we consume, but also in wider countryside management issues. I wondered whether that phrase included those.

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I should like to conclude by warmly welcoming this order. We feel it is a step in the right direction. I hope that the processors will support it because we have understood that one of the problems for the dairy industry has been processors and supermarkets exploiting their position in relation to driving down the price of milk. Their support for this scheme would be seen as a step in the other direction in terms of giving the farmers the support they deserve.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for welcoming the order. If I could start with the last point. This is a welcomed collaborative effort. As the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, pointed out, there is not a statutory duty on the processors. That means that we are more grateful that they are committed and believe that all the major processors are going to contribute. Their contribution, as I understand it, will be around the level of £3 million for the initial 18-month period. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked when the campaign was likely to start. Assuming that the legislation goes through on the timetable that we are implementing, the levy will be due from April, but it may be collected later. I understand that the MDC hopes to start the campaign by the end of May/ beginning of June. That is a matter for them in terms of the exact timing. That is the plan.

The campaign will be directed at young children, and in ways which appeal to them, as well as to older consumers. Whether it will specifically target those who are currently drinking Scotch whisky I cannot guarantee. Nor am I sure that it would be the most effective form of marketing. Perhaps a drop of whisky in the milk would be the answer.

It is right that we should evaluate progress with all the funding partners on such projects. A formal review will be undertaken at the 18-month stage against pre-set objectives. It will be carried out by an expert committee appointed by the MDC. If the campaign is not having the desired effect--and we hope that it will be successful--we shall then have the option of refocusing it or, if it is seen as being ineffective, of discontinuing it.

As has been pointed out, the dairy industry is under extreme pressure in this area. It has chosen to spend this money in this way because while companies are able to promote branded goods, some dairy products--primarily liquid drinking milk--do not lend themselves easily to brand promotion. That is why a generic campaign equally supported by producers and manufacturers can be of benefit.

In Great Britain, the consumption of liquid milk is falling by 1 per cent year on year. There is competition from soft drinks and changes in lifestyle have contributed to a fall in the amount of milk being consumed in the home. That has implications for our children's health and for physical development. We are currently discussing within the EU the future of the school milk subsidy scheme.

As the levy is viewed as a state aid, we cannot permit it to be spent on promoting the Britishness of our milk. However, it is a fact that the majority of liquid milk produced in this country is consumed here. The

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perishability and volume of the fresh product does not lend itself well to export or import. We believe that it will be effective and useful for dairy farmers here. More importantly, they believe that, too.

As regards the services supplied, the answer is "not directly". However, the MDC undertakes R&D work in this area and it is using the existing 0.04p of the levy in that and in other areas.

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I hope that I have answered the questions which were raised and that the House will support what we believe to be an important measure for the dairy industry.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at seventeen minutes before nine o'clock.

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14 Mar 2000 : Column 1

Electronic Communications Bill

Tuesday, 14th March 2000.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard.

The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in the Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. The Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and will then resume after 10 minutes.

Title postponed.

Clause 1 [Register of approved providers]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 18, leave out ("as he considers appropriate").

The noble Baroness said: I thank the Minister and his department for meeting me to discuss the Bill to consider in particular the government amendments which we shall be debating today. Amendments Nos. 1 to 4 are probing amendments designed to highlight the importance that we place upon the provision of a voluntary register of approved providers of cryptography support services, and the consultative procedures which we believe should be put in place to ensure that the register is effective as a workable accreditation scheme.

As with all aspects of this Bill, we are conscious of the fact that we are dealing with a continually evolving technology and it is therefore almost impossible to be sure here and now of covering all the possibilities which might arise in the medium to long term. This Bill reflects, albeit with a light touch--thank goodness, and thanks to the Conservative Party--a global watershed that is already changing all our lives and our thinking. That is why we must think on a global scale now, even if it is unrealistic to settle upon the right way to express this in law in this Bill. We believe that it is

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imperative that the Government turn to and consult with those businesses, bodies and persons interested in, and with the practical expertise in electronic communications, to assist them in guiding us forward.

With reference to Amendment No. 1 in particular, we firmly believe that it should not be a matter for the Secretary of State to define the limits of transparency of his own responsibilities. As it stands there need not be a proper consultative and inspection process, as the inspection and consultative procedures need not be defined. This situation is not, unfortunately, unique to this Bill. For example, the increasing power of the executive now mooted in the Financial Services Bill goes against both principles of natural justice, customs of common law and the advice of some of the most senior and respected members of the United Kingdom financial services industry. It is up to Parliament to hold Ministers to account and to define the proper standards of transparency to which Ministers should answer. We believe our amendment responds to that need.

With reference to Amendment No. 2, the Bill as it stands puts no obligation upon the Secretary of State to consult with the electronic communications industry, its representatives or the broader public. We have experienced through the passage of this Bill to date fundamental changes to its content; changes that have fortunately been agreed because the Government listened to business and those with practical expertise and experience, as well as to the Conservative Party, since its original draft.

The electronic communications industry has shown itself willing to support this process in terms of making available considerable expertise and financial resources. We have little doubt that a continuation of this consultative process would be welcomed. Most of the regulatory structures set up by the last Conservative government put consumer and industry consultation measures in place and there is no doubt that we have all benefited from this now seasoned partnership approach. I say "seasoned" as many of us are rather weary of hearing this Government talk about being in partnership with business as though this were a new concept. It is only new for new Labour.

Amendment No. 3 is designed to emphasise the need to ensure that the legislation and regime is developed and revised consistently in accordance with world-wide developments. We believe that the law must follow the markets and not vice versa. This Government have a high standard to live up to in this regard, given the range of nations which have adopted the free-market principles championed by the last Conservative administration.

The last government also established some of the core management and quality standards which have won international recognition in world markets; for example, competence-based management standards such as those championed by the Management Charter Initiative have been recognised as world class. The OECD has used several United Kingdom standards as part of the basis for its own best practice for global management which have been adopted by thousands of world-wide businesses.

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The Government are introducing legislation into a fast-changing environment that is moving much more quickly than the thinking behind that legislation. A range of new electronic communications technologies will drive a pace of ever more rapid change. Therefore, we believe it is incumbent upon the Government to continually review the legislation in recognition of the pace of change. Furthermore, Amendment No. 4 simply amplifies the importance of accountability which should, we believe, be demonstrated by the delivery of an annual report.

The credibility of any regulatory scheme depends upon the degree of respect that it has among the major practitioners and consumers in that industry. A key factor underpinning the ability of the regulator to gain such respect is its knowledge of the key trends affecting industry development. By introducing the most effective and wide-ranging consultative structures and processes, the regulator will gain more respect. All the privatised industries possess such structures and they are used actively. The production of an annual report highlights that accountability. I beg to move.

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