|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree that security is a real problem. As we know from this conflict and conflicts elsewhere, if security is not present on the ground it is very difficult for civil society to flourish and democratic processes to take root properly. That is why it is so important that part of the money we are devoting to conflict prevention is going towards a counter-insurgence capability.
Of course, that is not the sole answer, but it is important to look at those security issues. I assure the noble Lord that they are being looked at in concert with the issues around building civil society.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the supply of arms and equipment to the Nepalese Government will not by itself solve the conflict? That simply is not effective as a weapon against terrorism. Only with training in stable government and civil liberties and extending it way outside Kathmandu, which is somewhat of an island in Nepal, can the rule of law be re-established and common sense reign in that country. Will the Minister encourage a move in that direction?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, yes. I agree wholeheartedly with what the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, said. The package of assistance that we
22 Jul 2004 : Column 340
are giving in respect of military aid includes a very strong element of human rights training for the armed forces. Our aim has been to improve the professionalism of the army so that it can respond accurately andif I may sayappropriately and proportionately to Maoist violence, as well as be trained in defending a democratic constitutional state from any takeover by armed Maoist insurrectionists.
Lord Bramall: My Lords, following on from what the Minister said, does she not agree that one of the problems is that the military action that has to be taken to make the rebels realise that they, too, cannot win by military means alone is not always done in the most sensible way? With all our experience, is there not more that we can do to help the Royal Nepalese Army to win the hearts and minds of the villagers as well as giving the rebels a nasty jolt?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe that that is exactly the thought behind the way in which we are approaching our relationship with the Nepalese military authorities. There has to be a strong inculcation into those authorities that it is not just the use of force by itself, but that force is used in an appropriate and proportional way.
For example, the counter-insurgency capabilities have included things such as bomb disposal equipment so that a clear benefit can be demonstrated to civil society. Some of the helicopters that have gone to Nepal were used only last weekend to assist from the air, showing how the people of Nepal could be best helped by the sort of military equipment that we are giving. The training element is crucial.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, following up on the question from the noble and gallant Lord, the Prime Minister has often referred to failed states and failing states. Unfortunately, does one not have to reach the conclusion that Nepal is now a failing state? It might be better to get behind the label Maoist and follow up the thought about hearts and minds to set out a much more comprehensive political strategy, possibly in conjunction with the Indian Government, to see how we can talk more directly to some of those people.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sorry to say that I have to disagree with my noble friend. It is not fair to say that Nepal is a failing state in the sense that we usually use that term. Mr Deuba's appointment and the formation of a multi-party government represent the first window of opportunity for a return to negotiations with the Maoists since 2001.
It is important that we should back those efforts. We have been working very closely with our international partners to that end. We have been working through the EU and with our colleagues not only in the United States but also in India.
22 Jul 2004 : Column 341
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the vast majority of imports of pork and pork products into the UK are from other EU member states. All member states have to implement and comply with Directive 91/630/EC, as amended, which sets out minimum standards for the welfare of pigs. In certain respects, the UK has adopted higher standards, but the EU is now phasing in equivalent standards.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is he aware that the figures from the Meat and Livestock Commission show that 70 per cent of the pork and pork products imported into this country in 2003 did not conform to UK legal minimum standards of animal welfare? Do the Government support the best practice guidelines, which ask retailers and food service companies to be clear and transparent in the standards that they require from their suppliers and ask them clearly to label the products that they sell, including the country of origin?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, on the second point, the industry has helpfully produced that industry code. The Government certainly support the principles of that approach. As regards the 70 per cent figure, it is clear that any trade within the EU is subject to EU standards. Therefore, 70 per cent of the imports are not to UK standards or do not have to be to UK standards, although some EU imports are direct to our retailers, which often require that the pork is produced to UK standards. So the 70 per cent figure is probably a slight exaggeration, but it is true that the UK standards are not mandatory.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, what further steps can the Government take to ensure that the country of origin of imported pig meat is clearly identified on meat packages? Is the Minister aware that the Meat and Livestock Commission has samples, which I have seen, where one needs a magnifying glass to find the country of origin and certain packages where the country of origin is not identified at all but the meat is known to be produced in this country for packaging by well known importers?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, under EU law at present it would not be possible for us to require country-of-origin labelling. Currently, there are discussions within the EU on future labelling requirements, which include country of origin. We have supported proposals in those discussions to allow the requirement that country of origin is labelled. Of course, in practice, quite frequently the supermarkets voluntarily designate country of origin.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, will the Minister note that the British Pig Executive has said that other
22 Jul 2004 : Column 342
EU countries are not enforcing welfare standards? It says that because of that those countries have a competitive edge on UK producers in the market by undercutting them, which is devastating the pig industry. Will the Minister introduce a labelling system on imports that do not meet those standards and indicate a lower welfare production system than is the case in the UK?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have just answered a question in relation to labelling and what the Government can and cannot do about it. But at point of sale quite a lot of pork is clearly labelled with country of origin under voluntary arrangements.
Enforcing standards in other EU countries is not the central point. The vast majority of EU countries, particularly in the pork sector of agriculture, manage effective enforcement. In certain respects relating to stalls and tethers we are ahead of EU requirements. It is also true that some EU countries, including big suppliers to this country like the Netherlands, also have slightly higher than minimum EU standards. So we are not alone in that respect.
Lord Plumb: My Lords, although the Food Standards Agency is currently looking at legislation, does the Minister accept that it has already indicated that it will be 2010 before a report is produced? Why is it going to take that long when it is perfectly obvious that consumers want food labelling anyway? Is he aware of the voluntary scheme that has been started in Ireland? The country of origin is clearly marked on imported products as it is known that a lot of those products come from countries where the welfare standards are nowhere near as high as they are either in Ireland or in this country. Does the noble Lord support his ministerial colleague in Ireland, who is seeking the compulsory labelling of beef and insisting that meat products sold over the counter or in restaurants should carry a label showing the country of origin? Surely that is a clear lead for the rest of Europe.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|