HL Deb 12 December 1989 vol 513 cc1288-90

7.50 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th November be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said

My Lords, this order is part of a package of controls on medicated feeding stuffs. The package has been developed and implemented in stages since the early 1980s, when it became evident that the legislation that then existed was open to abuse and did not adequately implement existing or proposed EC controls. This order is the only one subject to affirmative resolution, which is why it is before the House today. A further seven statutory instruments which are to be adopted by negative resolution will also come into force on 1st January 1990.

The House will recognise that the responsible use of medicated feedings stuffs is an important feature of modern livestock husbandry. It can bring significant benefits in terms of animal welfare and of safety and quality for consumers of animal produce. The need, however, is to ensure responsibility by all concerned in the manufacturing, distribution, incorporation and use of those products.

Since 1985 we have progressively introduced tighter controls on what medicines can be incorporated into feed and a registration system for manufacturers of medicated feeding stuffs. Our purpose in the present package is to build on those earlier measures by ensuring that medicinal additives and intermediate medicated feeding stuffs are available only to registered manufacturers and by requiring merchants dealing in intermediate medicated feeds to be registered and to observe certain conditions. In addition we shall limit incorporation to medicinal products which have been licensed as feed additives and make a number of more minor improvements to the controls.

The order, which is made under Section 130(3A) of the Medicines Act 1968, will enable us to achieve the same level of control on the distribution of intermediate medicated feeding stuffs as for medicinal feed additives.

Why should we do that? The basis of control of medicines in the United Kingdom is the licensing system under the Medicines Act 1968. This ensures that products are not put on the market until we are satisfied that they are efficacious—in other words, that they work—that they are of appropriate quality—in other words, no undesirable contaminants—and above all that they are safe. "Safe" in the context of veterinary medicines includes safe for the animal; safe for anyone who may come into contact with the product and for the environment; and safe for the consumer of animal produce.

Incorporation of medicines into feed can sometimes be a difficult business. Because of that it is common practice for a specialist manufacturer to prepare intermediate medicated feeding stuffs; that is, mixtures of medicinal feed additives with a feed base. These can be more easily and safely mixed with the main ingredients to form the final feeding stuff. Such intermediates can be more safely handled by the general run of manufacturers. That practice is therefore eminently sensible. We have no wish to stop it. However, we wish to ensure that it leaves no loopholes for avoiding Medicines Act controls.

That is the reason we propose to make the order. It provides that intermediate medicated feeding stuffs should be treated as medicinal products for the purposes of the Act. Taken together with the other elements of the legislative package, it will ensure that licensing requirements for those products and statutory controls on their sale and supply can be implemented at all stages. It is therefore a further step towards the goal of safety throughout the food chain—a goal which the Government are also pursuing through their Food Safety Bill. That Bill includes complementary provisions to allow tighter control on the use on farm of medicated feeding stuffs in order to ensure that residue levels are consistently within safe limits.

I spoke earlier of responsibility. Before I finish I should like to acknowledge that our efforts to develop and apply sound rules have depended heavily on the co-operation of organisations representing compounders, merchants, farmers, veterinarians and enforcement authorities. Although they cover a wide range of different interests, they have recognised a common responsibility and have worked together with government to agree on fair and efficient controls. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th November be approved [2nd Report of the Joint Committee.]—(Baroness Trumpington.)

7.55 p.m.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, perhaps I may first thank the noble Baroness for explaining so clearly, as always, the purpose of the order and the underlying thinking behind it as well as the fact that there are seven complementary orders, if I may so describe them, which are subject to the negative procedure and which are also due to be updated from 1st January 1990. We support the order and the other orders to which she referred and it follows that we support the intention behind the order.

My only query is a straightforward one concerning the publicity for the new position which will apply after 1st January 1990. The noble Baroness has already paid tribute to those involved in the industry. May we rest assured that farmers, large and small, will be made fully aware of the changed position which is to apply under this and the other orders to which she referred?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, as usual, I am most indebted to the courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, for his welcome and kind words in respect of this and the other orders. I can assure him that we shall take all possible steps to make the new regulations known to farmers. It is in their own interests to follow them.

On Question, Motion agreed to.