§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations dealing with plant-breeders' rights contained in the Report of the Committee on Transactions in Seeds published in December, 1961.]
My Lords, the Agricultural Departments are at present working on proposals for legislation on plant-breeders' rights, to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee on Transactions in Seeds. As your Lordships will be aware, from the statement which my right honourable friend made in another place at the end of 1961, these recommendations have been accepted by Her Majesty's Government, who have decided to give effect to them.
The broad effect of the legislation will be that the breeders of new varieties of plants will be able to acquire legal rights in them for a limited period, much as patents may be obtained for new inventions. There have been discussions recently with the organisations concerned on the Government's detailed proposals, and I am glad to say that these confirmed that a very wide measure of agreement exists within the industry on the Government's proposals. This will much encourage Her Majesty's Government when the time comes to introduce the Bill, although I cannot at present say when it will be possible to find a place in the Government's legislative programme for this measure.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his Answer, 844 but is he aware that this extremely long delay in introducing legislation is having a very serious adverse effect, directly on plant breeders and indirectly, and perhaps more importantly, on agriculture? I would ask him, further, whether he is aware that this is caused by the fact that breeders are naturally awaiting the introduction of such legislation before embarking upon the very expensive processes of breeding new seeds, and because those who have arrived near to the stage of putting new varieties on the market are, quite reasonably, holding them up in order to gain the protection of the announced legislation. Would he therefore give some indication that the Government are viewing this question with some greater urgency than they have done in the past, and that the industry and, in particular, agriculture can look forward to the early introduction of legislation?
I can assure the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Government are fully aware of the importance of legislation, but, as the noble Lord is well aware, Parliamentary time is fully occupied, and it is a question of priorities. Her Majesty's Government have this matter very firmly in mind, and will do all they can to introduce legislation as soon as it is feasible.