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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend is right that often more than one offence is committed in the circumstances, and that several pieces of documentation are not valid for the car. As I have indicated, magistrates will take strong action when they regard the offence to be a multiple one and of a serious nature. My noble friend is reflecting the fact that compliance with the vehicle registration requirements also needs to be pursued with vigour. I can assure him that it is.

Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the penalty of disqualification from driving should remain available in cases where it is appropriate; that it is not in the public interest thereby to increase the number of those who are unemployable; and that it is

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therefore an important object of public policy that as many people as possible should remain able to go to work without the use of a motor car?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I understand the noble Earl's point. I am seeking to assure him—as I hope I did in my initial Answer—that magistrates have the choice of whether to try a case and insist on disqualification when that is merited by the seriousness of the offence. However, in more orthodox cases where a first-time offender does not have the appropriate insurance, the penalty will not be disqualification but a fixed-penalty fine and six penalty points—a serious penalty which will affect the driver, but will not disqualify him for his first offence.

Genetically Modified Organisms: Labelling

3.1 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what basis they are opposing the proposal for a European Union regulation concerning the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Government support mandatory traceability and labelling of GMOs. We welcome many aspects of the EU proposals, but we are concerned that others are not sufficiently firmly based on evidence, not practically enforceable or not consistent with the Cartagena protocol.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. For the record—despite his slightly equivocal reply—the Government clearly opposed the common position adopted by the Council of Ministers in March 2003. Only yesterday, Michael Meacher, until 10 days ago the Environment Minister, talked about the health uncertainties surrounding GM food and the lack of research. Consumers overwhelmingly support the GM labelling directive, as do the supermarkets, at the level proposed by the EU. Why do the Government not accept the necessity for the directive in that form? Is it because of US pressure?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I totally reject the view that my reply was equivocal. We strongly support labelling and, therefore, should GMOs be allowed, the ability of consumers to make the choice. Our objections to some of the details of the proposals were that the labelling requirements would be unenforceable, thereby making bad law, and would in one respect be contrary to the provisions of the Cartagena protocol. As the House will know, the Government are looking at all aspects of GMOs, including the health aspects, and will make decisions in the light of the evidence, taking into

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account public opinion. The Government will not be rolled over by pressure from the United States, from Monsanto or, for that matter, from Greenpeace.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the suggested labelling regime is being introduced, quite rightly, to facilitate consumer choice and not because of any known health hazard of any approved GM food? Of course that is not the situation that exists with many conventional foods; one thinks of nut allergies, for example. In those circumstances, given the subtleties and complexities involved, is it not absolutely right that we get an interstate regime that commands confidence because it is appropriate and can be enforced to the same standards across the whole of the European Union?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is exactly right. The enforceability of regulations in this field, as in others, is vital. Given the levels of concern and the differences in view, it is particularly vital in this field. It was necessary to have European labelling regulations. However, it is also desirable that those regulations are absolutely and clearly enforceable.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, given the international nature of the food trade and the fact that manufactured foods in particular come from all over the world, are the Government satisfied that the international arrangements outside Europe for segregation of GM and non-GM foods, and therefore for traceability, are in place to make the EU regulations work if they are put in place?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the European regulations can deal only with products imported into the EU. We believe that the bulk of the regulations proposed by the Council of Ministers will be enforceable on imports as well as on anything produced within the EU. Clearly I cannot answer for the regimes in other countries for products not imported into the EU. I have already pointed out the deficiencies in enforceability of some of the regulations, which I regret. However, I again stress the importance of labelling requirements which can enable European consumers to make a choice.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, will the new labelling be similar to that for food currently displayed in supermarkets and elsewhere? Huge signs everywhere proclaim "organic this" and "organic that". However, looking very closely at the list of ingredients, one often sees a little asterisk which says that it contains "permitted non-organic products". Surely a product cannot be organic if it contains non-organic products. How will that be checked and traced in the new GM food labelling?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the organic standards allow a minimum level of certain non-organic presence. In the case of the proposed GM rules, there will be a threshold for GM allowed in products advertised as not being GM products. That is primarily on the basis of traceability and enforceability of those rules and

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regulations. It is not an attempt to undermine the status of organic or non-GM products; nor is it an attempt to allow such products in by the backdoor.


Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, at a convenient time after 3.30 p.m. my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will repeat a Statement from another place on the EU summit.

National Lottery (Funding of Endowments) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Communications Bill

3.7 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 3 [General duties of OFCOM]:

Lord Puttnam moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 3, line 3, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

"(1) It shall be the principal duty of OFCOM, in carrying out their functions—
(a) to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and
(b) in that context, to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets;
and to do so where appropriate by promoting competition.
(1A) Where it appears to OFCOM, in relation to the carrying out of any of their functions under Chapter 1 of Part 2, that the requirement specified in subsection (1)(a) conflicts with the requirement specified in subsection (1)(b), they may give priority to the requirement specified in subsection (1)(b)."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1 I shall also speak to Amendment No. 14. In doing so, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, on his arrival as a solo act on the Front Bench.

Following constructive discussions with Ministers and officials, the precise wording of the original amendment has been somewhat adapted to accommodate legitimate concerns relating to connectivity. I am personally satisfied that this revised amendment represents no diminution whatever in the principle of a clear hierarchy of duties favouring the concerns of the citizen when at variance with the imperatives of the market place. We have all worked hard to future-proof this legislation. I believe that the amendment will help to safeguard the interests of the citizen irrespective of changes in market power in the years to come. Read in conjunction with the public interest plurality test, the subject of an amendment likely to be debated next week, this amendment represents the closest I believe we can come to achieving

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reform of a regulated market environment—which, as I read it, was the all but unanimous view expressed on all sides in Committee.

As for Amendment No. 14, it is fair to say that the broad view of the Committee was that we should hold the feet to the fire of those legal experts who believe that there is no place for "citizen" in the legislation. I have no idea what the outcome of that element of debate is likely to be, but the Romans discovered two thousand years ago that it is a valuable word. We should cling on to it as long as we can. I sincerely hope that the Minister, in his reply, will do all in his power to find room for a word that far and away best expresses the community of interests that we discussed in Committee. I beg to move.

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