HL Deb 19 February 1990 vol 516 cc22-44

3.50 p.m.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, having been informed of the purport of the Food Safety Bill, have consented to place their prerogatives and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament, for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Clause 5 [Food authorities and authorised officers]:

Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 1: Page 4, line 10, after ("islands") insert (", regional").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the agreement of your Lordships, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 2 since the amendments are linked. The purpose of these two amendments is to have the same flexibility in Scotland as is proposed in England and Wales—for the Secretary of State (in the case of Scotland) to have the permissive powers that the Ministers have in England and Wales to decide which should be the appropriate food authorities. The problem that arises—is that there seems to be some discrepancy between the treatment of Scotland on the one hand and of England and Wales on the other. It therefore does not seem unreasonable that the two should be brought into line.

However, there is a further reason for my moving the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, was kind enough to write to me on the subject and to indicate in his letter the reasons why the Government did not feel disposed to accept an earlier amendment to this effect. He explained that in 1983 there had been changes in Scotland in the application of the Food and Drugs Act and that these had been moved to district level. Perhaps I may quote from his letter. He added that: The Bill does allow the co-operation of trading standards departments in the field of food standards in as much as the food authorities (in Scotland the District and Islands Councils) can authorise persons other than their own officers to undertake their responsibilities under the Bill. This leaves the way open in practice for Trading Standards Officers to act as agents for food enforcement should the authorities judge it economical to do so".

He stated that there was in fact this flexibility in practice.

Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that I am president of the Institute of Trading Standards Administration. I have put this letter to the officers in Scotland. I received the reply that since 1983 there has been no move to include TSOs in any co-ordination or liaison groups. They further point out (and it is very important for the efficient implementation of this important Bill) that it is only in Scotland that each food manufacturer or trader has two home authorities: the region—namely, the TSOs for trade descriptions, weights and measures and price marking—and the district for compositional labelling. In England and Wales, on the other hand, there is only one authority responsible for all consumer protection functions. It follows from that that there is a strong case for closer co-ordination in Scotland, which apparently has not occurred since 1983. This admirable Bill provides an opportunity for stimulating such co-ordination and making it at least permissive. I therefore feel that in all those circumstances your Lordships would wish to support the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, I moved a similar amendment to that which has been so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, at the Committee stage of the Bill. Quite frankly, I was disappointed with the response that I received at the time from the Minister. I too have had the benefit of seeing the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, sent to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, on the subject. It is admirably friendly and lucid in many ways. However, it finally comes down in favour of not making the concession for which the amendment, I think, reasonably asks.

The case has been fully stated by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra. The only point that I mention, which may not be of immediate importance but could be of some importance in the not-too-distant future, is this. If the single market is achieved on time, that in itself may require a reappraisal of functions. Therefore, the flexibility that the Bill gives in England and Wales for such a reappraisal, should the need arise, should be extended to Scotland.

I hope that on this occasion the Government will give a more sympathetic response to the amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend on the Front Bench has to say in response to the amendment. Both noble Lords who have spoken to it know Scotland well and will appreciate that the geography is very different from that south of the Border. The local government arrangements are also different. As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, every citizen in Scotland is involved with two authorities, the district and the region, except where there is a unitary authority, which is in only a small part of Scotland, However, one has to remember that the regional council may not be geographically close to an event. For example, if there were a problem in Oban, the regional council headquarters is in Glasgow. If there were a problem in Wick, the regional council headquarters is in Inverness. One has to remember that there is therefore a remoteness. Communications are not easy.

The fact that there is a discrepancy between the remainder of the country and Scotland does not matter. We often have discrepancies and welcome them in Scotland, We need a flexibility that is suitable for the operation of the system. I shall listen with interest to my noble friend on the very detailed point that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has made. It is outside my experience. But it is within my experience that, for example, the public analyst in Tayside, where I live, is employed by the regional council. That public analyst could perfectly well work as an agent for the district council in Angus. That would be a flexible arrangement which would work very well in my view. I have been content with the system as it stands. However, I shall make up my mind when I have listened to my noble friend. I hope that that is helpful.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

My Lords, I am a little surprised and disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, continues to press this matter. During Committee the noble Lord, with support from the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, put down amendments designed to designate regional councils in Scotland as "food authorities". I explained then, and, as has been stated, the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, Minister of State at the Scottish Office has since written to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, to emphasise that Scottish Ministers had no wish to alter in any way the present arrangements. The single tier unitary system whereby EHOs of island and district councils have sole responsiblity for food law enforcement was put in place after very careful consideration as recently as 1983. As my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour said, demographic circumstances are different in Scotland and the seat of the regional council can often be very remote from parts of the region that it covers.

The present arrangements, I am assured, work very well. Indeed, Scottish Ministers are firmly of the view that to turn the clock back again and create some statutory role for TSOs would not only give rise to uncertainty but be completely at odds with the will of most industry and consumer interests.

As I have said before, we recognise that in a limited number of organisations there is a call for close co-operation between EHOs and TSOs. If this cannot be achieved by administrative means, then the Bill provides scope for the "food authority" to enlist and authorise others, who could be TSOs. But that decision we believe must be one for the food authority. There is no need for fundamental revisions in statutory responsibility.

I appreciate that all the noble Lord is seeking at this stage is an enabling power similar to that which we have in England and Wales and which would enable the Secretary of State to allocate some or all of the district councils' food responsibilities to regional councils. However, the Government cannot agree to this change. It would inevitably be unsettling. Once the power was there the arguments closed by the 1983 decision to go for a unitary system would be reopened and there would be pressure from trading standards officers for changes to be made. This is clearly undesirable when the existing systems works well and was reviewed so recently.

Of course if the structure of local government in Scotland were to be looked at again at some future date and the Government decided to make changes, primary legislation would inevitably be required and, if appropriate, the issue would be addressed and debated then.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, quoted from a letter written by my noble friend Lord Sanderson. I emphasise the final point made in the letter. It stated: This leaves the way open in practice for Trading Standards Officers to act as agents for food enforcement should the food authorities judge it economical to do so. That is a matter for decision at the working level, and there is nothing in the Bill to impede it". The noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, raised a particular point but I suggest that we jump that hurdle when we reach it.

To sum up, these amendments are not acceptable to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland for the good reasons that I have given. I hope that this further explanation, even if it is not welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, will convince him that he should withdraw his amendments.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, with the leave of the House, will the Minister say whether Strathclyde region, for example, is pressing to be a food industry?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I do not believe so.

4 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the full comment in the amendment that I have moved, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher. As she expected, I was sorry to hear her remarks. At first I was disturbed by her suggestion that the object of the amendment was to put the clock back. There is no question of doing so. As she later mentioned, it is a proposal for a permissive amendment to put Scotland on all fours with England and Wales.

I am disturbed by the concern of trading standards officers in Scotland. After all, the success of such legislation depends upon those who must carry it out. They are the environmental health officers and trading standards officers. It is most important that those two eminent groups have a full understanding, one with the other. I have been advised that trading standards officers in Scotland believe that since 1983 the system has not worked as flexibly as it should have worked and, as the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, said in his letter, it did work. That is a matter of great concern.

I do not propose to push the amendment to a Division. I merely wish to register the concern of trading standards officers in Scotland. It should be the responsibility of government to ensure that the concern is set at rest so that it is effectively implemented and everyone involved in carrying out the legislation can work closely together. I hope that the fears of trading standards officers in Scotland—they are a worthy group of people—can be allayed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Food safety and consumer protection]:

The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 3:

Page: 13, line 47, at end insert— ("() No regulations under subsection (1)(c) above authorising the irradiation of food shall be made before the draft Directive on food and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation has been adopted by the Council of Ministers.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, during the course of our debates on the Bill the subject of irradiation has caused the most bitter argument, although nothing is ever very bitter in your Lordships' House. It has certainly attracted the attention of those outside, in the press and the media, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so when the Bill passes to another place.

It may be that when our debates began in this House many noble Lords were somewhat ignorant of the subject of irradiation. We have dealt with the subject at length and I hope that your Lordships are now better informed about the process in terms of adding to food safety and also understand the fears held by those of us who were more anxious about its introduction than the Government. We remain anxious, and those of us who opposed the introduction of food irradiation as part of the Government's largely laudable package of measures to improve food safety believe that many questions remain unanswered.

Those unanswered questions are the cause of my amendment. The provision falls a good deal short of that which I put forward in an earlier amendment, which I withdrew. I had intended to move the amendment on Report but another amendment brought forward many of the same arguments. The matter was reached late at night and to have dealt with it then would have been unfair not only to your Lordships but also to those outside the House who follow our deliberations closely. I refer particularly to those who are interested in the new development; for example, customers, consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and so forth.

As the subject of irradiation passed through the debates in your Lordships' House an unusual aspect was the fact that we received a report from the Select Committee on Irradiation. Rather unsatisfactorily, I suggest, it was squeezed into the dinner hour. Nevertheless, some of us spoke for longer than the Government wished in order to express our fears and to seek further information from noble Lords who had served on the committee. Although only four members of the committee were present we received a clear message which is contained in its report. It is the substance of the amendment I have tabled today.

Although the Select Committee guardedly accepted in principle that irradiation could be a useful tool in helping the Government in their fight for food safety, it recommended that we should wait until the EC directive on irradiation has been approved by the Council of Ministers. Member states of the EC will then have an opportunity to meet and agree on its introduction. It can be done in a co-ordinated way with the proper backing of all members of the EC and decisions can be made on its introduction into retail and catering outlets, restaurants, and so forth.

It was also unusual that during the course of the Bill through your Lordships' House three television programmes were shown on the subject of irradiation. I hope that your Lordships saw those programmes and did not see just one of them because I thought that one programme was rather biased in support of the Government's view of the matter; namely, that the process is completely safe. Even that programme was rather cautious about saying that it was completely, absolutely or wholly safe. Those descriptions have been used in recent weeks not necessarily by the noble Baroness on the Government Front Bench but by various government spokesmen.

On the information that the people of this country have—and I am perfectly prepared to concede that some of that information has not been wholly understood—it is quite clear that there is a general anxiety about the process. It is not an anxiety about the unfortunate name of the process—irradiation—which many people confuse with the happenings in Chernobyl and other places. I believe that most people now gather that the danger about this process is not the radiation levels but what happens to the food as a result of the process when the structure of the food is broken down. They are worried about what happens in the long term if food is taken which has been irradiated over long periods. In my view, that has not been adequately explained to the public.

I have introduced this amendment in order to give us just a little more time. When we press for immediate action the Government are quick to say we must wait to see what happens in the other countries of Europe and must not be too hasty. On this occasion, they want to be hasty. One can see the reason for that. There has been an unfortunate increase in cases of food poisoning in recent times, for one reason or another. The Government want to be seen to be acting in a positive and radical way to deal with that. Some noble Lords may have suffered, as I did, from the salmonella outbreak. However, in most cases of food poisoning which have taken place the contaminated food is not in any event necessarily suitable for the irradiation process.

Furthermore, it emerged from the television programme last Thursday evening that the professor of microbiology at Leeds University, who has been carrying out some experiments for quite some time on listeria, has some evidence to show that not all the listeria is killed or eliminated by the irradiation process. Indeed, in some cases you can see a multiplication of the listeria after irradiation. There is a warning note there. If we wait until the European Community directive is approved by the Council of Ministers, we shall have a little more time to think about the process. Perhaps the Government will be putting themselves rather less at risk should something go wrong in the long term.

I suggest to your Lordships that to try to introduce this process of food irradiation into the country through regulation is thinking only in the short term. I do not think that the Government have fully considered what could happen in the long term. They are only concerned with dealing with this present problem of listeria and salmonella. Nobody would argue but that irradiation increases the shelf life of certain goods which are suitable for irradiation.

However, this Bill is not about shelf life but about food safety.

My postbag—I am sure this is the case with other noble Lords—reflects that those mostly concerned about this matter are parents of small children. It is all very well for noble Lords and others outside who can go and choose for themselves. Indeed, I suggest that there will not be much opportunity to buy irradiated food because the major supermarket chains except for Sainsbury's, have said quite categorically that they will not introduce it. Sainsbury's has said, perfectly properly, that it will be introduced if there is customer demand for it. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, put that view himself in this House and I see nothing wrong with that. However, if I understood the tone of that speech on that occasion, he believes it unlikely that there will be immediate demand.

However, let us consider the case of people in institutions, schools and even restaurants. On the television programme the other evening the honourable friend of the noble Baroness, who I think is the Minister for food safety, admitted in a rather airy way that the Government were having problems regarding irradiated food in restaurants. I should think they are having problems with that. How will that be marked on a menu? One of the policies of the Government is that people should be given more choice. However, let us suppose that a lorry driver goes into a transport cafe. How will it be indicated to him whether or not certain elements of his meal have been irradiated? That area must be a minefield. I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, is not present because I know that he has some fears about that.

I am sure that in certain cases—for example, school meals—inevitably people will be exposed to irradiated food and I hope that that does them no harm. I do not suppose that Oliver Twist, if such an unfortunate individual existed now, would care very much when he asked for more porridge whether or not it was irradiated. He would just want more porridge. Therefore, I suggest that this has not yet been sufficiently thought through.

My amendment proposes that the Government should wait and put the brake on this matter. I believe that they should not hammer us. That was the attitude of the honourable friend of the noble Baroness on television. Some of us find that attitude of certain members of the Government increasingly irritating. It assumes that millions of us are all idiots but that the Government are absolutely right. The public are right to be concerned about this new process and have a right to be assured that it is perfectly safe, which it is not. I do not suggest that it is unsafe. We just do not know enough about it.

I leave those thoughts with the House and commend my amendment to your Lordships. I believe that it is moderate and sensible and gives a short period for consideration. If more research is being carried out, then it gives time for those findings to be available. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment for slightly different reasons. My reasons are purely practical. It is an enormously complicated and expensive process which is highly emotive. We do not really know exactly what regulations will emerge in Europe. We cannot afford to be out of step because if we produce a regulation which we have to withdraw at the end of the day, that will be very expensive and will not help the cause of irradiation, if there is such a cause.

Too often we are out of step with Europe in any event. In this case it appears to me absolutely logical, as we said in our report on irradiation, that we keep in step with Europe. I commend that approach. We could get into a lot of trouble, a lot of people could be put to a great deal of expense and we could look extremely foolish. Therefore, it appears to me to be common sense to keep in step with Europe and to await the outcome of those regulations with everything in place in the Bill so that the Government can go ahead step by step along with our friends in Europe.

Lord Borthwick

My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the debate. I disagree with much of what has been stated.

The Americans lost more people in the Korean war as a result of irradiation than from enemy action. There was a breakdown of the irradiation system. All of the food came from America and fed the troops very well. I think that they probably quite liked it. However, something went wrong and the system of irradiation broke down. They began to become very ill and died. The death rate was higher than it would have been from a battle.

Irradiation kills a lot of useful things as well as things; that are not useful. We must attune our bodies to the areas in which we live. Some people drink the water of the Ganges and live happily. If British people tried to do that, they would probably not come out again. After two sniffs of the evening air when going past the Ganges, they would probably go down with fever next morning because they do not have the immunity of the natives which has been developed over many years.

For those reasons, I am very much against the introduction of irradiation. It is a very bad thing.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, at Committee Stage we moved a similar amendment to the one moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. Sadly, we had no joy from the Government on that occasion. I do not anticipate any change of heart in spite of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland's eloquence this afternoon. Nevertheless, the Opposition firmly support the principle that the Government would save themselves a great deal of aggravation if they moved in step with the Community on this important issue.

It is ironic that while Clause 18 of the Bill paves the way for being communautaire (whether we cross bridges before we come to them or not) the Government have signified in clear terms their firm intention to proceed ahead of Europe, with unknown consequences for the trade and for consumers. The Government are acting with undue haste and are needlessly making trouble for themselves. Nevertheless, I support the amendment.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, I hope that the Government stand their ground. I was astonished to hear the noble Viscount, when proposing this amendment, stating that we were probably ignorant of the subject. The subject has been canvassed for 30 years to my knowledge. I say that because I was then Minister for Science.

No noble Lord has mentioned the fact that this amendment deals with gamma ray irradiation. The public does not know the difference between alpha, beta and gamma. The public proceed on the dog latin motto omnia nuclear pro magnifico. We are in danger of becoming a nation of hypochondriacs and litigants like America, which is my mother's country. I am getting rather tired of it all.

We know all that there is to be known about gamma ray irradiation at the present time. It is known that it does not wash woollens, it does not pay income tax and that it will not wind up clocks. However, it will kill a certain number of bugs. Nobody can say that anything is absolutely safe because it will not destroy toxins which are already there. However, it will make food a great deal more healthy and safer than it is at present. That is a certain fact. Future knowledge may lead us further on.

The idea that the Community must tell us whether or not we eat irradiated food is to put the matter the wrong way round. Why should we restrict ourselves to food which the Council of Ministers allows us to eat? Why can we not choose for ourselves? Even if the Government are not infallible—and I have never known a government which were—why should we not be allowed to pass regulations of our own about what we eat in the form of chocolate, or the speed limit on our roads, instead of having all of this nonsensical pseudo-scientific talk fed to us day after day, even at the Third Reading stage of Bills?

Lord Hunter of Newington

My Lords, this situation is reminiscent of an earlier stage when the noble and learned Lord spoke as he has just spoken. I found myself left with one paragraph. In that paragraph I stated that we had been studying this matter for 20 years. We had been asked by the World Health Organisation to implement some provisions urgently in relation to the care of chickens. The decision of the Council of Ministers does not guarantee anything in relation to food safety. I suggest that the Government get a move on.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, has spoken as he spoke before, and I am afraid that I am going to speak as I spoke before, since this is the last chance for your Lordships' House to look at food irradiation. I should like briefly to run through the arguments against proceeding with this process with undue haste. I shall do no more than list them, since they were developed at earlier stages of the Bill. It is, however, important to do so.

Irradiation destroys vitamins. It damages the structure of food; if it did not, it would not be effective. It creates chemical processes whose long-term effects on humans are uncertain, to put it no higher. It does not of course make one glow in the dark, and I have little sympathy for protest groups which harp on dangers of radioactivity at the proposed dose, for which the evidence is minimal.

Irradiation is far from totally effective in protecting against hazards in food. Furthermore, the destruction of beneficial bacteria means that any contamination that takes place after food has been irradiated is that much more serious.

The evidence from safety studies is, I believe, a good deal less impressive than is often claimed. Epidemiological studies—that is, on populations exposed to irradiated food—are almost totally lacking. It is no argument to say that many people have been fed with such food if proper trials have not been conducted in order to discover what happened to those people. (Witness the dangers of smoking which were discovered after some 400 years.) Toxicology is an extremely imprecise science. Many of the animal studies relied upon would not meet current standards of evidence. Anyone who has looked at these matters will know that assurances of absolute safety can never be given, which makes all the more alarming some of the recent claims from the side of the Government. However, one looks, in the environmentally conscious 'nineties, for a rather firmer basis of relative safety, as some committees have pointed out. The major scientific database that underpins all the judgments on safety is a manifest shambles of disorganisation.

Then one has bias, mostly of the unconscious variety. Scientists will always want to play with their science, and technologists with their technology. They do not usually take kindly to those people with possibly a wider focus who want to be quite sure that they have it right first. That is especially true when they have something in their sights which they feel could be of great benefit to mankind. One can understand that situation. One of the things that worries me about the present debate is the enthusiasm, amounting almost to passion, in some pro-irradiation quarters. It is better to be dispassionate in matters that concern people's well-being.

There are reputable scientists and there have been reputable committees, including expert committees, who would not agree with what the Government are intending to do. If that were not the case, I would be foolhardy indeed to stand here and say what I have said. However, I am doubly strengthened by the observation that experts in this kind of field have a track record of blunders that makes me astonished that they can continue to give the assurances that they do without going bright red in the face. Since we last debated irradiation a week ago there have been two scientific findings that illustrate this point. We have been told for years that fluoride in the water supply at one part per million poses no danger to health. It has even been called a fake controversy. The latest American studies suggest that fluoride may cause cancer. The claims and enthusiasm for fluoride have their counterparts in the irradiation debate. At Sellafield the often-denied connection between radiation and leukaemia in the local population appears now to have been made. Some of the doses implicated"— I read in Saturday's Independent— are within the levels previously considered safe". Does anyone sit down, I wonder, and examine the system that produces those wrong results—not merely wrong, but dangerous—with a view to understanding why it happens so often, and doing better next time? Shall we have to learn the hard way with food irradiation as well? To proceed now would be to go against the weight of public opinion in this country—a point which has already been made—and against the whole trend towards a fresher and more natural food supply and lifestyle.

I understand the arguments for consumer choice, as soon as (but not before) the safety issue is resolved; but I wonder whether the Minister has taken in the implications once irradiation is in the food supply. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, has referred to some of them.

I have here an invitation to an official dinner which came the other day. Suppose irradiation were already a fact. What do I do about it? Do I ring up the secretary and say, "Are you having irradiated food?" He probably will not know. He probably will not know who the caterers are. Do I put it in my diary or do I not? Suppose a neighbour rings me up and says, "We should like both of you to come to Sunday lunch. We have some people we should like you to meet on Sunday". Do I ask, "Are you having irradiated food?" It is hardly a good social ploy. Do I keep a card index of friends and acquaintances who have irradiated food? Do I keep it up to date, constantly modified?

That is the everyday reality. Buying food for home cooking is the easy bit. I know all that because I went through it when I was allergic to a range of foods and drinks. In effect, the exercise of choice is just not possible unless one suffers the life of a hermit. Once irradiation is in the food supply, we are all in for it, whether we like it or not.

I am well aware that I have spoken more strongly than the amendment may warrant but that is because I believe that irradiation is a bigger issue than the Government have been willing to concede. I urge the Minister to accept this extremely modest amendment. 4.30 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, has not the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, terribly misled himself and is he not misleading us by taking one American report on fluoride, which suggests that it may cause cancer, and trying to leave in your Lordships' minds, presumably having it in his mind, that that will be the same for every other type of advance in the scientific processing of food or other things that we take into ourselves? He is thereby implying that that will apply equally and precisely to irradiation, upon which we are well aware that studies have been continuing for 20 years. We do not even know whether the American report was a one-off which happened to hit the press and whether it is substantiated. It is dangerous for your Lordships to be given the thought, without the noble Earl having said so, that the position would be the same. I hope that your Lordships will view cautiously what he said in that manner.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am most grateful for the last words of my noble friend Lord Mottistone. I cannot compete with my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham or the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, but in 1985 when I became a junior Minister in the then DHSS I was given the in-house responsibility for ionising radiation of food. I thus have quite a long pedigree of familiarisation with that process. I have had the opportunity, for instance, of seeing the excellent research undertaken in Northern Ireland. I have had plenty of opportunity to question and to be informed. My conviction as to the safety and Tightness of the process is thus, I submit, well-founded.

Following what the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said, I must say that my regret that the process was named "irradiation" has proved to be right. If for instance it was called long-life food, or even food ionising or whatever, I wonder whether we should be gathered here today querying a process of scientifically proven safety. I arrived at MAFF in 1987 asking, "When are we going to bring in food irradiation?"

I have listened most carefully to what has been said today, at various stages of the Bill and in our debate; and I must say that it was a novel experience for me to be squeezed into the dinner hour. On the question of delaying the introduction of irradiation until agreement is reached on the proposed European Council directive, I recall that my noble friend Lord Middleton described the recommendation in his sub-committee's report to this effect as, consistent with the Committees' cautious approach". I was particularly struck by the comment of my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour at the Committee stage. She indicated that when the committee agreed that recommendation she was under the impression—which she believed she shared with other members—that Community agreement was imminent. She went on to say that, if that were not the case, she could understand the Government's point in proceeding.

I believe that it would be wrong for the Government to allow their hands to be tied by the amendment for a number of reasons. First, the difficulties in Europe are political. They do not concern the safety of the process. Secondly, the technical standards applied to irradiation are not in dispute in Brussels. We shall be able to anticipate them and therefore there is no question of the United Kingdom introducing a different standard. Thirdly, if other provisions, such as the type of food to be irradiated, are subsequently agreed for the European Community as a whole they will obviously be incorporated into our own domestic regime. Fourthly, we need to act now to make available a safe and effective alternative treatment for the decontamination of herbs and spices. Fumigation by ethylene oxide will cease to be allowed within the Community at the end of this year. There is widespread support for the use of irradiation for that purpose. Fifthly, and most importantly, the Government believe that irradiation offers real public health benefits through enhanced food safety.

There are few in the Government who support the European ideal more warmly than my right honourable friend the Minister. However, Community agreement on the directive in question is some way off. If the amendment were to be accepted we should be giving Ministers in other member states power to decide upon the timing of the introduction of food irradiation here even though some of them have already felt it appropriate to introduce it for their own consumers. We should thus be abrogating our right to take our own decisions in areas not yet covered by harmonised arrangements. That was a point most ably made by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham.

We should also be putting ourselves in the position that we should be unable to take a decision until all others had done so. As I have previously made clear, the Government concur fully in the wish to have one harmonised set of rules across the whole EC. We very much hope that the current deadlock in Brussels will be broken soon; but, as I said in our debate on the sub-committee's report, it would be a brave Minister who would now risk a forecast as to when agreement might be reached.

I also cannot help feeling that the amendment is spurious. Members of your Lordships' House who oppose the process have given up their attempt to attack irradiation on its merits as an issue of food safety. There is a recognition, which is borne out by the recommendations of the sub-committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Middleton, that irradiation under carefully controlled conditions, including proper labelling, has a role to play in improving food safety. Moreover, the Government are required to consult on their detailed proposals for regulations and to set them out in a statutory instrument which will be laid before the House. In those circumstances, I feel that this is a spurious, delaying amendment, with the undesirable constitutional overtones that I have already described.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, mentioned Professor Lacey. I am aware of the claims made on television last week about the effect of irradiation upon listeria in poultry meat. I can only say that these claims are in complete conflict with the published findings of research at Queen's University, Belfast, and elsewhere. The published research shows that the level of dose envisaged for poultry meat will bring about a very significant reduction in listeria numbers, a reduction of about 90 per cent., in fact. These published results are supported by the findings of research conducted by my department which have not yet been published in full.

I shall be very interested to look into the claims. It is slightly unusual to give a new scientific finding on a television programme without having first written scientific papers to support it. I can inform the House that as soon as we became aware of these claims we wrote asking for full details to be supplied to us as soon as possible. I should add that statements made on that particular programme about listeria's ability to grow at low temperatures are nothing new. This particular property of the bacterium is very well known. That is one of the reasons for the stress which the Government have laid all along on the need for good hygienic practices and close attention to temperature control following irradiation.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, mentioned the problem of labelling in restaurants. The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, also spoke on the same subject. The noble Viscount is quite wrong to suggest that we are having problems over labelling in catering establishments. We have made it quite clear that we shall provide for that and we are consulting widely over it. In any event the proposed EC directive does not cover that point. The Government will have to work out the UK solution to this issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said that we must not get out of step with Europe. I could not agree with him more. I see no reason whatever to delay in providing enhanced food safety and in providing British consumers with the choice already available to French, Belgium, Italian and Netherlands consumers. That means that the millions of British holidaymakers in Europe, perhaps even the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, may already be eating irradiated food.

But what have your Lordships to fear? As I have said before, there will be no compulsion for the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, or indeed anybody else, to eat food treated with ionising radiation. Consumer choice is the name of the game. The likelihood is that very few foods will be irradiated. Indeed at the moment there are many foods for which the process is not suitable, but it is suitable for poultry meat, shellfish and herbs and spices. These are all important uses of irradiation from a food safety point of view. We shall provide for full and clear labelling. We shall not relax our efforts to make food as safe as possible, but irradiation is such a valuable adjunct to our armoury that we would be wrong to delay. When the Community reaches agreement on this matter, should our rules differ we will of course amend them, as will France, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. For all these reasons I cannot accept this amendment.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. The noble Baroness said that the difficulties in Europe are political. I imagine that most difficulties in Europe are political. I am not absoluely sure what she meant. All I am saying concerning this amendment is that we should wait until Europe resolves whatever its difficulties are even if they are political. However, I fancy that they are more than that.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, asked why we should be dictated to by Europe as to what food we should and should not have. As I understand it, the truth of the matter is that we are in Europe and the result is that we shall have some measure of dictation concerning what we have and do not have in the way of food and other things. I do not believe that that will be bad in all cases.

This is a very limited amendment. The noble Baroness has been eloquent but she has not answered all my points by any means though she has clarified some. A great many people in the country have expressed concern not about the safety of the measure but about the haste with which the Government are engaged in bringing in the process. I would not be responding to my responsibilities and it would be unfair of me if I let the matter go. I shall have to put the amendment to your Lordships' House for a decision.

4.46 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 76; Not-Contents, 120.

Addington, L. Kennet, L.
Amherst, E. Listowel, E.
Ardwick, L. Lockwood, B.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Longford, E.
Bonham-Carter, L. McCarthy, L.
Bottomley, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Broadbridge, L. Mais, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Molloy, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Monkswell, L.
Monson, L.
Carter, L. Mulley, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Nicol, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Northfield, L.
Cobbold, L. Ogmore, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Peston, L.
Craigavon, V. Phillips, B.
David, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Raglan, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Rea, L.
Ennals, L. Rochester, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Roll of Ipsden, L.
Ezra, L. Seear, B.
Falkland, V. [Teller.] Serota, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Shackleton, L.
Gallacher, L. Stallard, L.
Galpern, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Gladwyn, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Strabolgi, L.
Grey, E. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Hampton, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Underhill, L.
Hughes, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hunt, L. Wedderbum of Charlton, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
John-Mackie, L,
Kearton, L. Winstanley, L.
Abercorn, D. Blatch, B.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Blyth, L.
Aldington, L. Boardman, L.
Allerton, L. Borthwick, L.
Arran, E. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Ashbourne, L. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Auckland, L. Butterworth, L.
Aylestone, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Balfour, E. Campbell of Croy, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Beloff, L. Carnock, L.
Belstead, L. Cawley, L.
Bessborough, E. Coleraine, L.
Colnbrook, L. Margadale, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Marsh, L.
Cottesloe, L. Merrivale, L.
Cox, B. Mersey, V.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Milverton, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Monk Bretton, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Diamond, L. Mottistone, L.
Elibank, L. Mountevans, L.
Elles, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Munster, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Newall, L.
Erne, E. Norrie, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Orkney, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Pennock, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gisborough, L. Polwarth, L.
Goold, L. Pym, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Rankeillour, L.
Hailsham of Saint Reay, L.
Marylebone, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Rodney, L.
Havers, L. Sainsbury, L.
Henley, L. St. Davids, V.
Hesketh, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Hirshfield, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Hives L. Seebohm, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Selborne, E.
Hood, V. Shannon, E.
Hooper, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Hunter of Newington, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Stedman, B.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Strange, B.
Joseph, L. Strathclyde, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Killearn, L.
Kimball, L. Strathspey, L.
Kinnaird, L. Sudeley, L.
Lauderdale, E. Swinton, E.
Layton, L. Terrington, L.
Long, V. Teviot, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Lyell, L. Trefgarne, L.
McCollof Dulwich, L. Trumpington, B.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Ullswater, V.
Malmesbury, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Mancroft, L. Wise, L.
Manton, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Clause 28 [Appointment of public analysts]:

4.53 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington moved Amendment No. 5: Page 20, line 17, leave out ("this section") and insert ("subsection (1) above").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7.

Noble Lords may recall that in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Carter, moved an amendment to enable public analysts to continue to undertake analytical work on behalf of food businesses. At that time, I did not believe there was a problem about the drafting of Clause 28(2) which called for an amendment. However, I undertook to look in to the matter and write to the noble Lord. As a result, we came to the conclusion that these three amendments are needed.

On reflection, we consider that it would be prudent to be able to remove any doubt as to what activities fall foul of the prohibition on public analysts' involvement in food businesses. We propose to do this by providing a regulation-making power. We intend that such regulations will list what activities will preclude people from acting as a public analyst. It is difficult to set out an exhaustive list and the use of regulations rather than the Bill will enable adjustments to be made more easily to the list. Examples of what we would propose to include initially are directorships of food businesses, full-time or part-time employment in such a business and retainers accepted from such a business. I assure noble Lords that we do not intend generally to prevent public analysts from undertaking work for food businesses on an ad hoc basis. However, we need to be sure that there are appropriate arrangements to avoid conflicts of interest. In drafting the regulations there will of course be full consultation with interested organisations in the usual way.

We wish also to make a change to Clause 31 which will allow for official samples to be passed on where the analyst feels there may be a conflict of interests as well as in the circumstances already provided for in the current text, such as lack of expertise or appropriate equipment. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the amendment. I recognise the difficulty the Minister has had with the clause and subsection. There is still a degree of imprecision in the wording. I presume that this will be taken care of in the regulations. We shall look at those very carefully when they come before us.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Trumpington moved Amendment No. 6: Page 20, line 19, at end insert ("; and in subsection (2) above the reference to being engaged directly or indirectly in a food business includes a reference to having made such arrangements with a food business as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Ministers").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 31 [Analysis etc. of samples]:

Baroness Trumpington moved Amendment No. 7: Page 21, line 17, leave out ("an effective") and insert ("the").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 35 [Time Limit for prosecutions]:

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 8: Page 24, line 28, at end insert— ("; and unless there has been served on the person charged a notice in writing of the date and nature of the offence alleged, such notice to be served before the expiration of the period of thirty days beginning with the date when evidence which the person proposing to institute the proceedings considers is sufficient to justify a prosecution for the offence came to his knowledge. (2) Such a notice as is mentioned in subsection (1) above may be served on any person either by serving it on him personally or by sending it to him by post at his usual or last known residence or place of business in the United Kingdom or, in the case of a company, at the company's registered office. (3) For the purposes of subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) a certificate of a person who institutes proceedings for an offence mentioned in that subsection which states that evidence came to his knowledge on a particular date shall be conclusive evidence of that fact; and
  2. (b) a document purporting to be a certificate of such a person and to be signed by him or on his behalf shall be presumed to be such a certificate unless the contrary is proved".).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I should like again to thank my noble friend the Minister for the series of fairly concentrated discussions that have taken place since we last discussed the subject matter of the amendment. I am most grateful to her. I return to this amendment because I feel that some misunderstandings arose during our discussions at Report stage. For example, my noble friend suggested at one time that the amendment sought to give special protection to food manufacturers, importers and sellers. That was not the intention; and the amendment, if noble Lords were minded to accept it, does not seek to do so either.

The amendment seeks to insist that enforcement authorities investigating a complaint should notify formally within a reasonable length of time any likely plaintiff that an investigation is being undertaken. There are a number of examples of where enforcement authorities have not instituted legal proceedings—indeed it was not necessary for them so to do—until some months after they became aware of evidence. I suggest that such delay may have been due to shortage of resources or because of a queueing system. Whatever the reason, delay makes it difficult for the plaintiff to conduct internal investigations when many events will have taken place since the offence was perceived to have been committed.

I believe that an amendment requiring enforcement authorities to give notice within a very short space of time that they are minded to carry out an investigation which may lead to allegations is only right. The requirement would be there to help the plaintiff in making his own examinations and in carrying out his own internal inquiries. Whatever the outcome of the enforcement officer's investigation may be, that can only make more clear either a prosecution or, indeed, a defence. I trust that I have made the intentions of the amendment quite clear. I commend it to your Lordships' House.

5 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendment. Unless this is agreed to, how can an individual who is being prosecuted possibly prepare an adequate defence in respect of an offence which is most probably a minor offence and, what is more, almost certainly an accidental one, allegedly committed as long as three years previously?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth for the remarks he made. As I said before, I think that the time limits in the legislation are reasonable. Therefore, I should be reluctant to see them effectively undermined by the qualification proposed in the amendment. As my noble friend said, we have discussed many of the potential problems together. However, we should like to give some further thought to one aspect of the problem raised by him.

If an environmental health officer or a trading standards officer undertakes an inspection of premises, the owner is on notice that if all is not in order he may be prosecuted. If he takes a sample, regulations under Clause 32(2)(e) provide that he gives notice of the fact to the "persons in charge". We can look at the problems described by my noble friend in making any such regulations. If a prosecution stems from a complaint by a consumer and the proprietor is not aware of it, I can see that it may be difficult for him to defend himself later when proceedings are taken against him.

However, perhaps I should say that I believe the enforcement officer would usually visit the business promptly when he receives a significant complaint to check the position. Moreover, I am assured that most, if not all, authorities already operate procedures whereby the proprietor or the person in charge would be informed of a complaint. But if there is a problem it seems to me that it may be suitable to address it in a code of practice for enforcement authorities and not in the Bill. I undertake that we shall look at the matter in that context.

I should perhaps add that in all such cases the enforcement officer would normally interview the proprietor or other person in charge. If he wished to use the replies of the interviewee he would have to caution him first and explain the nature of the complaint in accordance with the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. If he did not caution the interviewee, the replies would not normally be admitted as evidence by the court. If there are problems in practice about which my noble friend is aware, I should be most grateful if he would let me have full details of them. I ask for such details because it is very difficult to judge from anecdotal evidence. I should be very glad if he would write to me giving me chapter and verse. I hope thereby that we can settle this problem—if, indeed, it is a problem—once and for all. In the circumstances, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am grateful for the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. He underlined the fact that there is a serious matter under consideration here. I am also grateful to my noble friend the Minister for what she said. Of course I shall respond to her invitation to provide chapter and verse of those cases which have been brought to my attention where, I believe, it would have been more helpful had a more prompt response been made by the trading standards officers or others.

I listened carefully to what my noble friend said with regard to what a court may take note of. I was reminded of the discussions we had over defences which were available to manufacturers and retailers. It seems to me that we should be looking at the problem which I have outlined to your Lordships with that aspect in mind. Whether a visit is made promptly is perhaps by the way; what I seek is an assurance that my noble friend will embrace somewhere the requirement to give formal notice.

My noble friend has given an undertaking to give further thought to one particular aspect and also to what may be contained in a code of practice, which is provided for in Clause 41. I am grateful to her for that consideration. Therefore, I do not wish to proceed further with the matter this afternoon. However, I hope that before the Bill becomes enacted we may actually see what is in my mind on the face of the legislation rather than in one of a number of codes.

I shall beg leave to withdraw my amendment shortly, but since I am on my feet and since I do not propose to take part in the next stage of the Bill's proceedings, I wonder whether your Lordships would allow me to thank my noble friend the Minister for her courtesy throughout the proceedings. She has certainly helped me over a number of problems. I should also like to thank her for her unfailing humour during at least two rather long late-night sittings on the Bill.

I do not know whether your Lordships noticed the fact that during the Report stage we had—and I think for the first time in Parliament—the unique and extremely pleasurable attendance of three noble Baronesses conducting the proceedings on the Bill. We should perhaps mark that fact. Indeed I was reminded on one occasion of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Mikado" and especially "Three little maids … are we". I can only say that although those three little maids may have been wary, I suspect that our three little maids who conducted the proceedings on the Bill were not unwary of what lay before them. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An amendment (privilege) made.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

This important Bill which brings together legislation covering the whole of Great Britain received a broad welcome from all sides of your Lordships' House on Second Reading. That positive response continued through most of the subsequent discussions. The spirit of co-operation has also been most evident within the government team. I must pay tribute to the very valuable contributions made by my noble friends Lady Hooper, Lady Blatch and Lord Strathmore and Kinghorne. It was especially pleasant to reactivate the old team of "Little and Large", particularly when my noble friend Lady Hooper has a great deal of other legislation with which to preoccupy her.

My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has slightly stolen my thunder because I was going to say that we had created a little piece of history. Opposition Peers must have been terrified at being faced with not one, not two, but three battling Baronesses for the first time. I venture to add that the Lords show the Commons the way.

I also wish to thank the noble Lords, Lord Gallacher, Lord Carter and Lord Tordoff, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, for their unfailing courtesy and good humour. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham and the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, also deserve my thanks. Your Lordships have put a lot of careful work into the Bill and this is shown by the fact that we made about a hundred amendments to it. Last but certainly not least, I wish to thank all those officials and my private secretary for their hard work and for putting up with me through what I might call thick and thin. I have also learnt an enormous amount about a wide range of subjects such as elvers, guar gum, Mr. Babbage's differentiating engine and some things that I should have preferred not to discuss so soon after dinner!

Your Lordships are well aware that the Bill contains a considerable number of enabling powers. We have looked at some length at the way in which secondary legislation is scrutinised by interested parties, with the help of a number of your Lordships on both sides of the House, including my noble friend Lord Mottistone, who moved the first amendment on the subject. The Government brought a comprehensive amendment at Report stage to extend the provision for consultation and this received a positive response.

The issue which we discussed for longest and in the greatest depth was food irradiation. We had the benefit of the debate on the report of your Lordships' committee, chaired by my noble friend Lord Middleton. I hope that I was able to reply to some of the concerns expressed by explaining the Government's intention and the World Health Organisation's view that food irradiation has real potential for reducing food poisoning. I also emphasised our commitment to consumer choice. In this context that means making available irradiated food under strict controls and ensuring that it is properly labelled so that the consumer can make an informed choice.

I thank your Lordships very much for the close scrutiny that has been made of the Bill. I commend it to the House and wish it God speed to another place.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Trumpington.)

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition I wish to express our thanks to the Government for the manner in which the Bill has been handled in your Lordships' House. On Second Reading, it received what is popularly known as all-party support; that is to say, on all sides of your Lordships' House the speeches were strongly in favour of the Bill, complimentary about its purpose and complimentary also about the skill with which it had been drafted. The compliments about drafting skill, however, did not extend to the Committee stage because your Lordships managed to devise more than 180 amendments to table to the Bill. Some of them, I am glad to say, were accepted by Her Majesty's Government. Unfortunately some of the better amendments were not. Needless to say, most of the better amendments were tabled by Her Majesty's Opposition.

I too noticed with considerable alarm the composition of the Government's half-back line on Report. I wondered whether I had strayed by some mischance into a ladies' night but I realised to my consternation that I had not. My consternation gave way to regret that I had failed on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition to table as many amendments on Report as I had been urged to do. It was not that I wanted the honour and glory of moving them; it was simply that I felt that if I had tabled more I should have had my wrist metaphorically slapped far more often than I did. That said, however, I congratulate the noble Baroness particularly on the skilled way in which she handled the Bill and her two assistants for their backing aid, which I thought was of a most exemplary character.

I also wish to thank my colleague, my noble friend Lord Carter, for his support, and to congratulate speakers on all sides of the House for the expeditious way in which they dealt with the Bill. Other noble Lords, please copy! Like the noble Baroness, I wish the Bill well in the other place. I do not think that it will have quite as untroubled a passage, from what I hear. Nevertheless, we have set them a good example. The purpose of the Bill is first class and I hope that it soon passes into law.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, from these Benches perhaps I may join in thanking the noble Baroness and her team, both inside and outside the House. I hope it is not improper to say so, but having had the opportunity of discussing certain amendments with the noble Baroness I found myself confronted with an entirely female team of assistants and officials. This potential sixsome is formidable indeed. Nevertheless, they were a group of people prepared to listen to what was said to them and to agree, where they felt it was possible to agree, and to bring back amendments in the name of the Government, for which I am extremely grateful.

There are still some matters which we should have liked to see in the Bill, such as, the independent food agency for which my noble friend Lord Ezra pressed. He also would have liked to see trading standards officers more fully integrated into the system. I raised this splendid hare of "superglue" meat, as it was subsequently referred to, which seemed to hit the popular press at an amazing rate during the week. That culminated, I may say, in the ultimate situation of being discussed by Ms. Katherine Whitehorn in the newspaper the Observer yesterday. I could not have put it better myself, except that I think I did. She said: there isn't anything intrinsically more wicked about using up little pieces of meat in this way, than there is about using bits of pig's cheek to make brawn—provided that we know what we are getting". That has been the theme running through many of the amendments that have been debated in your Lordships' House—the fact that consumers ought to be aware of what product they are getting, what it contains and how it is made. I think that we have gone some way towards that.

I understand that my honourable friend the Member for Truro in another place has received some Answers to a number of Written Questions in the last 24 hours. I am glad to say that the tone of the Minister's reply is at least reassuring. I note in particular that the labelling rules which he talked about will apply equally to catering supplies as they do to retail sales. This is talking specifically about meat bonded together with blood plasma. I am not sure whether it is worse to mention this before or after supper!

I believe that it was important to raise this matter. I hope that the Government will keep a beady eye on it. Again, the trading standards officers are somewhat worried as to whether the provisions in the Bill will be adequate to deal with the problem as it develops. It is a matter which I believe the noble Baroness has agreed to discuss further with me in the period between the Bill leaving this House and reaching the other place.

Once again I wish to thank the Minister for the great help that she gave, particularly in relation to the freedom of information amendments which we discussed before the Committee stage. She came back at Report stage with her own amendments on that. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is still worrying about removing manufacturing processes from the face of the Bill. I sincerely believe that he is mistaken and that the problems which he genuinely has are covered by the trade secrets legislation rather than merely manufacturing processes. Any matter which is secret to a process will of course be maintained as a secret, except in the most dire circumstances when the Minister can override that.

All we have done is to stop manufacturing processes which are not secret being revealed to the public in the cause of public safety. I hope that eventually the noble Lord will be able to accept that, although I see him looking fiercely at me; so perhaps he is not yet in that position. Once again I thank the Minister for the Bill, which will do much good for food safety, provided that it does all that the Government intend it to do.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I too wish to thank my noble friends Lady Trumpington and Lady Hooper for the courteous way in which they have handled the Bill and for the many amendments they have either accepted as they were or to which they have tabled amendments of their own. I also thank them for the way in which they have written good letters to try to put my mind at rest on certain matters. The Bill is a good Bill. However, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, brought up the matter of Clause 33(7) as I was not proposing to do so. What he had to say was in my opinion misguided. I believe he only introduced that matter as a kind of token. It is unfortunate that manufacturing processes will not be treated in the ways they have been heretofore. However, that is another matter. I hope that the Bill proceeds well through another place and that it is not mucked about. I hope that the point on manufacturing processes will be brought back into the Bill in another place. In all other respects I wish the Bill well.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.