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Lord Warner: My Lords, I thought that I had made it clear that the products will not immediately be removed from the market, and that a good deal of negotiation is to go on in terms of maximum limits in the period ahead.
Earl Howe: My Lords, it has been a very good short debate. I thank everyone who has participated in it, including the Minister. However, despite the reassurances that he sought to give, it is clear that the Government are on the defensive on the issue. He was not able to answer the key points raised by a number of noble Lords. I, for one, was not reassured. To claim that the directive is about consumer safety and nothing else is, I am afraid, patently untrue.
The Government point to the derogation. If the directive were really about safety, any nutrient added to the list after the submission of a dossier should be allowed to remain on the list permanently, not simply until the derogation expires. But that is not the case. That gives the lie to the Government's claim as to what the directive is about.
The Minister said that there was no evidence that the public would be denied supplements. Indeed, there is a two-year period before any products currently marketed need to come off the market. However, the shelf life of the products is such that manufacturers now have to plan for what happens in two years' time. Effectively, they have to take action now.
As regards maximum limits, if safety is to be the prime consideration in determining the maximum permitted levelsI commend what the Minister had to say on the Government's intentions on that score, which I hope that they can carry throughwhy does the directive state that the recommended daily allowance should also be taken into account when determining the limits? That does not seem reassuring either. If there were a real health risk from those products, the Government would have statistics about the harm and deaths that result from people taking food supplements. No such statistics exist; indeed, I have yet to hear any evidence that nutrients that are prohibited under the directive cause people any harm.
The situation created by the directive is absurd. Consumer choice should not be curtailed unless there are genuine safety reasons for doing so. We should not have to ban safe, legal products just to achieve EU harmonisation. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said that this was a case of an EU sledgehammer cracking a nut; I quite agree. The House needs to send a strong and unequivocal message to the Government that the regulations are unjustified and unacceptable and that they must take further urgent action to safeguard British interests and British consumer freedom. I therefore wish to seek the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes): Before calling Amendment No. 25, I must advise the Committee that, if it is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 26 due to pre-emption.
There are a number of other issues in addition to those raised by the Joint Committee. The Law Society pointed out that PACE introduced transparency and accountability into police investigations. We recognise that recording possessions is time-consuming. I agree with the Law Society that it can involve some additional paperwork. However, I also agree with the Law Society that it is not overly onerous and provides all the parties with protection. Without the obligation to record, there will be disputes as to what was originally in the suspect's possession, particularly where money is concerned. Items may have evidential value or be used to assist in inquiries into other matters. Surely, it will be more difficult for the police to protect themselves against allegations that evidence relied on was never in the suspect's possession.
It is the view of the Law Society that this provision will lead to increased litigation and increased distrust of the police. Nevertheless, this House must face the fact that the Government are intent on seeking to remove some of the bureaucracy involved. We did not seek to move the amendments because that would concentrate on the details. It might be useful to explore in Committee with the Minister ways in which the intention could be met without the sweeping away of this provision.
Perhaps I may add that in sweeping away this duty to record or cause to be recorded, I wonder whether the Minister has thought about whether there is now the right to record. If police officers still want to record the items, do they have any statutory authority to do so now? Perhaps the noble Baroness will address that point. It may well result from the sweeping away of this provision in this way.
It is important that a full list should be made of a detained person's property. The list assists the police in many ways, including those that I have already pointed out. It is important also because it ensures that the police cannot be criticised at a later time or, indeed, be subject to any allegation that they have held on to property. It is all there recorded. But there must be occasions which no doubt the Minister will point out where that has involved unnecessary paperwork. Perhaps we might explore with the Minister whether or not it might be at the request of the defendant or the accused person that there could be an obligation to record, or whether it will be possible for the police still to record at their own initiative. Would they need to seek the agreement of the defendant?
I can well understand the purpose of these provisions but it may well be that they will be counterproductive. A failure to list all property could prevent the successful prosecution of other offences committed by that person. It is also possible for the police who are making the decision about which property to record to fail to record property that appears at the time to be irrelevant to that particular prosecution.
There are views that this clause should not stand part of the Bill and that is why we seek this debate. We on these Benches support the reduction of bureaucracy where it is appropriate, but we feel that the police and others may find that they have reason to regret this particular clause if it becomes part of the Bill.
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