Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree—it is a fact, so she should

12 May 2003 : Column 5

agree—that it is absolutely futile for the Government or anyone else to talk about nutrition and what is good or bad for people until the Food Standards Agency and the Government take appropriate steps to require easily assimilable and comparable nutritional labelling on all packed foods? That step is still overdue.

Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords. How dare I disagree with the noble Baroness? I wish to make two comments. First, the Food Standards Agency has an action plan on labelling. It is considering the whole range of issues concerning labelling, not just its scope and its efficiency. Just as importantly, we are taking a lead in Europe. Obviously, to an extent our food labelling is governed by European directives. We are pressing in Europe for more comprehensive ingredient listing, better country of origin labelling, clear nutrition labelling and tight controls on nutrition and health claims. We are doing our best to take a lead in this area.

Lord Rea: My Lords, can my noble friend say what the Government's position is with regard to the Private Member's Bill being introduced in another place which seeks to regulate advertising of food and sweets directly aimed at children? Is she aware that a recent opinion poll showed that some 80 per cent of the population would favour such legislation?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am sure that the Government will look carefully at the Private Member's Bill. Importantly, the Food Standards Agency is taking a lead in funding a systematic review of research into advertising and the promotion of food with regard to children. That will be published in July 2003. We are painfully short of information and research on the link between food promotion and eating behaviour. I hope that the review will help to clarify the position.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, what is the opinion of the Government in relation to the current campaign by Cadbury's to sell more chocolate to children thereby encouraging the purchase of IT equipment for schools?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness knows that the Get Active! programme is not a government initiative. We are not encouraging children to eat more confectionery. The project was negotiated between Cadbury's and the Youth Sport Trust, an independent charity. Ultimately, schools themselves decide whether to take part in that project. The most important action we can take is to pursue our schools' fruit scheme, which will reach a million four to six year-olds this summer, and the Food and Health Action Plan, which next year will bring together all our policies. I refer also to the considerable amount of money we are putting into school sport in a number of different ways.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, have the Government had discussions with the manufacturers

12 May 2003 : Column 6

of confectionery? Can the Minister confirm that chocolate and the products of the cocoa bean represent healthy eating if consumed in moderation?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, as something of a "chocoholic" myself, that is quite good news. We must take care when trying tackle the problem of obesity that our general message is one of moderation, balance in the diet and good sense. I am sure that the industry has been involved in the FSA's discussions on the reduction of sugar in foods in general. We will play a part in getting them into partnership as much as possible.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, my noble friend's comments on labelling will be most welcome, but will she use her influence to ensure that it is not good enough merely to have labelling but that such labelling should be in a type that is large enough to be readable in a supermarket? All too often, one cannot see what it says in the dim light of a supermarket and one does not know what the labelling means.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, it is not merely in the dim light of a supermarket; often one cannot see it in the full light of day. I agree that the label should be of a size and a clarity that really makes it helpful to people. I am sure that that is one of the issues that the FSA review will be examining.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the fact—

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, we are over time now; we are all waiting for my Cabinet colleague to reply.

Iraq: Food and Medical Supplies

2.51 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, perhaps I may, on behalf of these Benches, congratulate the noble Baroness on her appointment as Secretary of State for International Development. I am sure that I speak for the whole House—clearly I do—in wishing her well in that important position. I hope that her appointment will not stop the noble Baroness performing her important role in this House.

The Question was as follows:

To ask her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to help secure food and medical supplies stored in Iraq.

The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos): My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, for his very kind wishes. I am absolutely delighted, as the House can imagine. This House has a strong interest in international development issues which crosses parties and which I hope will continue.

12 May 2003 : Column 7

As part of their obligations under the Geneva Convention and Hague regulations, coalition forces are working to protect hospitals and storage facilities containing food and medical supplies. There is not currently a widespread shortage of food. The World Health Organisation reports that the overall stocks of medical supplies are sufficient. There are a few specific shortages of specialist drugs that it is working to address. DfID has committed 115 million for support work by humanitarian agencies in the current crisis.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that response. The WHO has predicted a possible cholera outbreak in Basra. What contingency plans have been made to deal with that and to replenish medical supplies in Iraqi hospitals, which are running short as a result of looting and the continued insecurity?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. The WHO has confirmed 16 cases of cholera in Basra in the past 12 days. It is important that noble Lords remember that cholera is endemic in southern Iraq at this time of year. A cholera taskforce has been established, bringing together the WHO, UNICEF, the Department of Health and NGOs. There are reported to be sufficient stocks of relevant medical supplies, but there are some difficulties in distribution as many vehicles have been stolen. We are looking at that as a matter of urgency. In addition, DfID has cholera kits sufficient to treat 11,000 people on standby in Kuwait.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I am sure that many Members of the House would like to second the congratulations of the noble Lord, Lord Astor, and I do so myself. I am sure that the noble Baroness is aware that the problem goes far deeper than has been outlined and that although Iraq expects a bumper wheat harvest, only two thirds of it is certain because of high petrol prices and farmers' inability to use machinery. Does not the root of the problem lie far deeper? Is there not a need for Iraq to be helped to be Iraq and for that poor country to move towards some sense of stability in the long term?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is absolutely right. While the humanitarian crisis is not on the scale that was predicted—for example, in terms of the movements of internally displaced people—and there are food and medical supplies available, the security situation remains a matter of grave concern. The right reverend Prelate also referred to the high prices of petrol. That is why the reconstruction effort is so important and why the UN resolution that is under discussion in New York is so important. They will pave the way for the establishment of the interim Iraqi authority that will take over the administration.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I congratulate the Secretary of State on her new position. Her appointment is extremely welcome, as we have heard.

12 May 2003 : Column 8

On all sides of this House, and across the development community, her hard work and commitment are justly recognised.

Does the noble Baroness agree that our key aim in Iraq must be to restore security and to assist, as the right reverend Prelate indicated, in the establishment of a legitimate Iraqi government who can oversee all areas, including the security of medical supplies and food? In light of Clare Short's resignation, does she feel that the United Nations is being offered an appropriate role in trying to move forward the establishment of that legitimate Iraqi government?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, the right reverend Prelate and others for their very kind wishes. Our priority must of course be the restoration of security. That is why the coalition forces are working so hard on that. We have managed to achieve that to a degree in the south. There is still fighting in Baghdad and that is why the situation there is so difficult. With respect to the importance of establishing a legitimate Iraqi government, the noble Baroness was absolutely right. The role of the UN is critical to that.

There are three key issues with which the new resolution deals. The first is the role of a special UN co-ordinator. The operative paragraph in the draft resolution is paragraph 8. It sets out a substantial mandate for a special co-ordinator to play a full part in all aspects of post-Iraq activity, from humanitarian efforts through to economic reconstruction, human rights, rebuilding police capacity, promoting legal and judicial reform and the political process. I hope, in the light of my comments about the scale of the role envisaged for the UN's special co-ordinator, that the noble Baroness will appreciate that we continue to see a vital role for the UN in that process.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page