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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I hear what the Minister has said, but is he as worried as I am that, although the Government have set out their policy, when it comes to applying regulations, they are not followed through? Perhaps I may ask him what he thinks of the example I could cite with regard to the fallen stock directive, which is particularly applicable to dairy farmers. Is he aware that a farmer may operate a small-scale incinerator under a regime that is easy to comply with, but if a small group of farmers want to operate an incinerator for the same purpose, they must enter into a completely different management regime and apply for a waste regulation order?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, that goes somewhat beyond the question of the impact of competition in the dairy sector. Of course the multiple use of an incinerator raises wider issues of bio-security and therefore protection against animal disease than
The key issue before the House, however, is whether the dairy industry in particular can operate with the agreement of the competition authorities in a way that is in line with what the Curry commission has suggested. That is now the case and the organisation just referred to by my noble friend Lord Carter is an extremely good example of how the industry is being encouraged in that direction.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is it not true that formerly, under Milk Marque, dairy farmers in far outlying districts such as north Wales were much advantaged from the point of view of being able to reach their market by being part of an organisation which worked very well and was in competition with our European friends? What has happened since to make things any better for our dairy farmers than they were under Milk Marque?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the decision on Milk Marque was taken by the independent competition authorities in relation to issues of public interest and that of consumers, and with a view to securing a better service for consumers. However, so far as concerns dairy farmers, the successor organisations to Milk Marque have mobilised a significant proportion of farmers working in difficult market conditions. We are certainly seeking to encourage relationships between milk producers and milk processors to enable them to secure a stronger market position than has been the case in recent years.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, does the Minister agree, with hindsight, that the break-up of Milk Marque was a mistake? It took place after several years of falling prices at a time when farm-gate prices were unsustainably low and broke up one organisation which could, in terms of economic power, compete with the enormous power of the processors and retailers. Will the Government do everything that they can to support future co-operative ventures in line with the philosophy of the English Farming and Food Partnerships and welcome participation and share ownership by farmers in processing and retailing activities so that they can increase their economic power?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, even given the temptation of the right reverend Prelate, I am loath to engage in hindsight in relation to a body which has, rightly, been made immune from ministerial interference and which based its decision on exploitation and abuse of the market position not on the existence of the market position as such. But today I hope we are looking to the future with the launch of the English Farming and
Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister understand why some people might suspect that his answer to my noble friend Lady Miller is an example of a government succumbing to the temptation to take decisions in the interests of their filing system?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, as ever, the noble Earl loses me in the logic of his position. The Government's filing system, particularly in Defra, is absolutely immaculate. But it is important, if this is the point behind his question, that we have a holistic approach to regulation and do not adopt decisions in one field that cut across the objective in another. That is why the Government, partly at the behest of the Curry commission, are moving to whole-farm regulation rather than the multiple level of regulation that we currently have on farming.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the reality is that basic agricultural commodities are traded internationally and freely, and it is the international market that determines what happens. Does the Minister consider that determining the internal UK market in the interests of consumers, and a nominal abuse of position, has done anything to help anybody when the reality is that the main purchasers purchase where they can at the cheapest price? The cheapest price is very often from areas where the same health and sanitation standards are not so rigorously applied as in this country, and that gives others a competitive advantage that we cannot cope with.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not accept that. The EU has very tight regulations on the trading of commodities. But the noble Lord is particularly wrong in relation to liquid milk. In that market, which we are concerned with here in relation to Milk Marque, there is very little international penetration. The issue is, therefore, the market within the UK and not one which is affected by the international price except in so far as there is price support in relation to the EU. Whatever the noble Lord's points may be in relation to other regimes, they are not applicable to liquid milk.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, a party to an armed conflict is liable to pay compensation if it violates the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions or of Additional Protocol 1 thereto, if the case so demands. As the United Kingdom has conducted the
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. But was it not repeatedly stated that coalition forces would not target civilians and that therefore damage, injuries and death must have been caused by accident? In that case, is not the coalition responsible for the accidental damage to Iraqi civilians in view of its declared policy that Iraqi civilians would not be targeted?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right that we stated that we would not target any civilian objectives, and we did not. Where civilian targets were hit, there is still a good deal of dispute about the exact circumstances. I can think of one or two incidents where it was claimed that they were accidents caused by our own coalition forces and counter-claims that the damage was caused by Iraqi return of fire. Under the Geneva Convention, the military action should always be such that does everything and takes all appropriate steps to avoid such casualties. In choosing targets, method of attack and proportional response, that was exactly what the coalition forces did. That does not render them in any way subject to compensation for damage caused.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister remember that after the first Gulf War, the UN Compensation Commission paid out substantial sums? I think it met 2.6 million individual claims, and there are still corporate and state entity claims outstanding. Those have been so prolonged that some say they will not be settled until 2070, which is rather far ahead. For the second Gulf War, will not the same procedure be adopted and if it is, could the UN Compensation Commission be encouraged to keep separate the individual claims which it settled quite promptly from the obviously much more legalistically complicated claims from corporations and state entities?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right: there are outstanding claims from the first conflict. As the noble Lord and most of your Lordships will be aware, there is no provision under the Geneva Convention for an individual to make a claim against the state. The Geneva Conventions provide for inter-state compensation, not for compensation to individuals. But I have a certain amount of sympathy with what the noble Lord says about trying to speed up the process at the UN, which takes a very long time. As your Lordships discussed
Baroness Northover: My Lords, the reason given for this war was to uncover weapons of mass destruction which Saddam Hussein had apparently hidden. Now the Foreign Secretary says that these weapons may never be found and that it is not significant. Therefore, the question of the legality of this war is obviously pertinent. In the light of last night's "Panorama" programme about the influence of neo-Conservatives on the US administration, does the noble Baroness feel concerned to be the junior partner in such a coalition? Can she confirm that should the US plan to take action of a similar nature of doubtful legality, the UK Government will not take any part in any attack on Iran or Syria?
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