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Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Food Standards Agency has had a major impact on the intake of salt through its salt campaign, which will have a large impact on the health of the nation? I declare an interest as a member of the board of the Food Standards Agency. Does the Minister also accept that throughout its work the agency has done all that it can to consult the whole industry?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I pay tribute to the valuable work of the FSA and the noble Baroness. I emphasise her point that considerable salt reductions have already been achieved in a number of food products, including a 25 per cent reduction in Kellogg's Corn Flakes, reductions between 11 and 18 per cent across the Heinz product range, and a 15 per cent reduction in Marks & Spencer's sandwiches. Those are just some of the examples where, on a voluntary basis, public health is being improved.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords—

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, it is the Liberal Democrats' turn.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, when I am ever going to get my turn?

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that Roquefort and Danish Blue contain almost twice as much salt as British blue cheeses and that the FSA would do well to ensure that the British blue cheeses are not threatened in this way? It should concentrate on promoting a balanced diet.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I remind the House that the FSA operates and funds a specialist cheesemakers initiative to promote best practice in small cheesemaking businesses. It is as keen as anybody to ensure that customers and consumers can get the
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products that they want. All that it is trying to do is ensure that public health is protected as far as possible in food production processes. I am aware of the differences in salt levels between Roquefort and blue Stilton.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, surely the answer is simple: should not those who are not meant to eat much salt avoid those foods, unless they are greedy like me?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I have no sensible answer to give to the noble Baroness.

Earl Peel: My Lords, surely the answer is to display the level of salt on the package. Does the Minister agree that it will then be up to the consumer to decide whether he or she wants to eat that product? To have the Food Standards Agency, the Government or anybody else telling the consumer what to eat is beyond the pale.

Lord Warner: My Lords, neither the Food Standards Agency nor the Government is telling people what to eat. We have a public responsibility to try to ensure that food production processes minimise the use of salt where appropriate. The examples that I gave earlier show that many responsible producers are taking notice of that public health consideration. There is a range of ways to help the public in this area. One is raising public awareness and another is labelling. Yet another is what the FSA is doing: working with food producers, which is a sensible way forward in trying to reduce salt levels.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, as the consensus seems to be that this should remain a voluntary agreement but that more persuasion is needed, will the Government devise new ways of trying to persuade responsible manufacturers to give content figures, given the implications of salt content, particularly for children and the elderly?

Lord Warner: My Lords, the noble Lord is right: that is the basis on which the FSA is trying to work with food producers and retailers. It is also carrying out a public awareness campaign in order that people can become more aware of salt levels in particular foods.

Earl Howe: My Lords, even if it were technically feasible to achieve a small reduction in the salt content of Stilton, which is very doubtful, and if that were acceptable to customers—again, very doubtful—would that not make an insignificant impact on people's total salt intake? Is this whole exercise really worth while in relation to Stilton?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I emphasise again that Stilton is not being picked on. It happens to have achieved a certain profile in this exercise. The FSA is discussing 88 product groups. The noble Lord may be right in saying that this may have an insignificant
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effect, but final decisions have not been taken, and the FSA is in close consultation with manufacturers and the Stilton Cheesemakers' Association.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, could the Minister confirm—I am surprised that no one on the Conservative Benches has asked—that this attack on Stilton is not another dastardly plot by European Commission?

Lord Warner: My Lords, it is not a plot by the European Commission, the Department of Health or the FSA.

Roads: Delivery Van Drivers

11.22 am

Viscount Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Department for Transport recently announced funding for safe and fuel-efficient driver-training for van drivers throughout England. The scheme aims to encourage safer, cleaner and cheaper driving; it is not aimed at aggressive driving. It follows a successful pilot that found significant financial and environmental gains could be made by using advanced driving techniques. The results—a fuel saving of 9.5 per cent and 59 per cent fewer gear changes—were published on 25 January 2006.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but he did not mention road rage, which is specifically part of my question. Is it not the case that violent confrontations between road users—known widely as "road rage"—do not always result from a lack of driving skills, but rather from impatience and lack of consideration for other road users? That is particularly the case where professional drivers such as van drivers—often known generically as "white van drivers"—are concerned. Further, is the Minister aware that in the motorcycle dispatch industry training has recently been introduced that covers all aspects of road use, not only the control of the vehicle? That has been extremely successful. It has been introduced and paid for by the industry, with no public funds involved.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Highway Code is quite clear that drivers should have consideration for other road users and road rage is, of course, the antithesis of that. I did not think that I would ever stand at this Dispatch Box to defend white van drivers, but I must emphasise that their
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accident rate in incurring injury is lower than that of heavy goods vehicle drivers and members of the public.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I must declare an interest, following the noble Lord's last comment, as a white van driver. Is the Minister aware that one of the great problems is that anybody can walk into a van hire firm and rent a white van, without necessarily having the competence to drive it as well as the noble Lord would like?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am glad to see that white van drivers have other representation in the House. Of course, the noble Lord is absolutely right, but we are concerned to deal with professional drivers, because we think that we can appeal to their employers. It is in employers' interests and the interests of the drivers themselves to improve driving quality and driving techniques. As the noble Lord says, many vans are available for rental, and the drivers are ordinary members of the public—and we have to confess that we are not as good as the professionals.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, would my noble friend when looking at questions such as training and education in driving skills turn his attention towards the minority—but nevertheless a substantial minority—of two-wheel drivers, who seem to believe that the Highway Code has no meaning or relevance to them? Many of them, particularly cyclists, believe that they are exempt from the laws on traffic lights. They are substantial hazards on our roads.

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