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Consequential Amendments

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1997

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Lords amendment: No. 12, in page 18, line 28, at end insert—

("(2A) In Schedule 4 to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967, in the entry relating to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal, for the words after "Tribunal" there shall be substituted "(referred to in section 39 of the Plant Varieties Act 1997)".")

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 13.

These consequential amendments also refer to the Plant Varieties Act 1997. I shall continue to develop the point I made in my speech on Lords amendment No. 11. I want to express Liberal Democrat Members' regret that the Bill has been rushed through Parliament. I know that the Government and the official Opposition do not regard the Bill as controversial, but we do.

I hope that hon. Members understand that the assumption built into the amendment that the Bill will be enacted by the end of the year shows that the Government were determined to railroad through the Bill. The matter was drawn to the Minister's attention on Second Reading not only by Liberal Democrat Members, but by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney). I suspect that the Minister does not welcome my contributions on the Bill.

I remind the Minister that the Bill will enable up to five American biotechnology companies to control about 80 per cent. of the staples that we eat, within five years. The world market for genetically altered seeds will reach US $7 billion by 2005.

I remind hon. Members of the words of Vandana Shiva in "Future of our Seeds". The author concludes:
"Transnational companies will decide what is grown by farmers, what they use as inputs, and when they sell their produce, to whom and at what price."

The Minister will say that the Bill is purely about patents. In a sense, he is right, but the implications go further. Rather than rubbishing what I have said, as I think that he may do, I hope that he accepts that the Bill has serious implications. The Government should think carefully about ensuring a fair balance between the interests of farmers and consumers and those of the biotechnology companies.

8.45 pm

There will never be a time when anyone can accuse me of not being full and frank with hon. Members. I spoke very briefly to the amendment. I raised the hon. Gentleman's point in a previous incarnation many years ago. I suspect that the Bill will be passed tonight to become the Plant Varieties Act 1997. He may be shocked to learn that, if Royal Assent takes place in 1998 for some reason, the House authorities will alter the relevant passages so that they refer to the Plant Varieties Act 1998.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 13 agreed to.