rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations, laid before the House on 20 December 2007, be annulled.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I start by welcoming the Government’s commitment to increase the level of breastfeeding in this country by 2 per cent per annum, particularly among disadvantaged groups, as the benefits of breastfeeding, especially in the first six months, are beyond doubt. The issue today is the regulation of infant formula and follow-on formula, specifically SI 2007/3521, which gives effect to the relevant European Union directive. The directive updates requirements on the composition, advertising and labelling of infant formula products.
I have tabled the Prayer because these regulations do not go far enough to promote breastfeeding as best practice for new mothers. Broadly speaking, the statutory instrument will achieve four key measures: first, better labelling will clarify that follow-on formula should be used only by infants from six months of age, rather than four months as at present, and labels should promote breastfeeding; secondly, it restricts advertising and promotion of formula; thirdly, it stipulates the nutritional content of formula, which must be clear on the label, and says that the product must require only clean water to reconstitute the powder; and, fourthly, it ensures that formula exported to developing countries is of EU standards, although, sadly, a lack of universal clean water in those countries is often an infection source. However, the regulations do not go far enough.
The health benefits of breastfeeding are widely accepted. The World Health Organisation states:
“Breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development”.
“We can now say with full confidence that breastfeeding reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood”.
Breastfeeding is clean and safe; breast milk contains antibodies that reduce the risk of acute infection, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infections, haemophilus influenzae, meningitis and urinary tract infection. Moreover, benefits carry on into later life, as breast milk confers some protection against allergies, diabetes and even ulcerative colitis.
The National Childbirth Trust has said that,
“all parents need reliable information on all the different methods of baby feeding—this information should be clear, accurate and based on research evidence, so that parents have the opportunity to make informed decisions”—
and an informed decision must be free of commercial pressures.
Mothers, especially first-time mothers, need help and encouragement to breastfeed. They need preparation in antenatal care and a calm, supportive environment, with encouragement to maintain their own fluid intake as feeding is established. I recall having to justify carrying on breastfeeding in the face of comments such as, “Are you sure the baby’s getting enough?”, “Why don’t you give a bottle from time to time” or “You must be exhausted, breastfeeding”. I had to argue that I did not want to introduce solids at four months because of a strong family history of eczema. Sadly, I hear over and over again that such fights to breastfeed continue today.
We must improve the flow of information to women in pregnancy so that they realise that breastfeeding is easy, enjoyable and bonding and will help them to get their figure back quickly, too. It is the most natural and healthiest way in which to feed a child. Sadly, some mothers cannot breastfeed, but infant formula should be a fallback choice if breastfeeding is not right for them. Of course, such mothers must not feel stigmatised and safe formula products have been important for many women.
Those mothers need clear information on what is contained in formula products and how to prepare the formula safely. For example, current World Health Organisation guidelines recommend that the water used to mix the formula powder should be 70 degrees centigrade or higher to kill any bacteria and that the formula should then be allowed to cool. However, that information is not on labels, even though the WHO says that it is the single most effective step to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination and that contamination with Enterobacter sakazakii is found in some tins of formula, even before they are opened.
The Royal College of Midwives and the World Health Organisation support exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months without other solids or liquids. Although the NHS Information Centre’s most recent survey, from 2005, showed initial breastfeeding rates of 78 per cent, by six weeks breastfeeding rates had fallen to 48 per cent and by six months to 25 per cent. However, the figures for exclusive breastfeeding are worryingly lower, at 45 per cent at one week and 21 per cent at six weeks following delivery. The issue is not simply one of ceasing to promote formula; it is one of education and support. This study found that mothers who received advice, usually from the midwife, prior to the birth of the child, were more likely to breastfeed than those who had not received advice.
So what is wrong with these regulations? At first sight, they look excellent. The Baby Feeding Law Group and the Breastfeeding Coalition, which represents the views of 38 organisations, including five royal colleges, suggest that the regulations should also: ban all promotion of formula, both infant and follow-on; prohibit baby-feeding companies from seeking direct or indirect contact with pregnant women and mothers, including through company carelines; ban baby-feeding companies from setting sales targets and giving incentives to their employees; ban marketing complementary foods that could undermine breastfeeding; and prohibit formula gifts to healthcare workers.
The Royal College of Midwives has also called for the regulations to: prohibit the use of the image of a feeding bottle to indicate baby-changing areas in public places; ban the use of pictures of bottle-feeding babies in magazines that are aimed at pregnant women and new mothers; prohibit company-produced or company-sponsored material on infant feeding; and prohibit the promotion of names associated with breast-milk substitutes.
I call on the Minister to ensure that the Government make moves to adopt the suggestions and keep a close eye on the formula companies, as some have in the past found and exploited loopholes. There need to be clear distinctions between infant and follow-on formula products, so that companies cannot advertise by reverse association. Yes, I am calling for gold-plating of the EU regulations.
Interestingly, the companies that produce formula products claim that the timeframe to comply with the regulations is so short that they took a court injunction to stay the implementation date, which had been brought forward from January 2010, as originally planned, to 11 January 2008, although no other EU country has shortened the transitional arrangements. A judicial review is now scheduled, so it may be helpful for the Minister to clarify the English position.
The principle of these regulations is to be applauded. Infant-formula companies should not be allowed to undermine breastfeeding by heavily promoting their own products. It is an opportunity not to be missed. We have a chance to raise breastfeeding rates in this country, but these regulations need strengthening to achieve that. I beg to move.
Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations, laid before the House on 20 December 2007, be annulled.—(Baroness Finlay of Llandaff.)
My Lords, I warmly welcome this debate and agree that although some progress is being made, not enough has been done to promote breastfeeding or to curb the marketing power of the formula manufacturers. It is a question, as the noble Baroness said, not only of ceasing to promote formula but of making far greater efforts to educate the public in the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage pregnant women and mothers to pay attention to that message.
The Merits Committee has drawn to our attention the evidence that it received from a powerful consortium of professional and lay organisations; that is, that these regulations should have banned the advertising of infant milk formula and follow-on formula and that the labelling should include, as the noble Baroness said, a minimum temperature for the water used for mixing. By failing to do so, according to the Baby Feeding Law Group, the regulations undermine the efforts being made by health professionals to see that mothers are provided with scientifically correct advice on the best feeding regime for infants. That point of view is supported by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services.
An international code of marketing of breast-milk substitutes was developed as far back as 1981. We understand that the UK and other member states attempted to strengthen the draft directive so that it mirrored the wording of the code. The Commission ignored that advice, but there is always a margin of appreciation allowing member states discretion to go beyond the strict terms of a directive and one often hears criticism of states for the so-called gold-plating of European legislation mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. But in this case there would have been the powerful argument that we had consistently undertaken to comply with the code and that the promotion of these products, which undermines the Government's policy of encouraging mothers to continue breastfeeding their infants until they are at least six months old, is positively harmful. Yet in an NCT/UNICEF survey, 74 per cent of respondents said that they had started using follow-on milk when their baby was less than six months old; this applied particularly to younger, less well educated parents, who need the benefit of this advice more than those who are highly educated and therefore receptive to government messages.
The Government no doubt have some idea of how much the industry spends on marketing these products. It would be useful if the Minister could give us a ballpark figure and compare it with the amount that the Department of Health spends on the promotion of breastfeeding, because I think that there is a gross disparity between the two figures. The follow-on milks are unnecessary for any infant and I welcome the Department of Health agreement with the World Health Assembly resolution of 1986 to that effect. The Minister of State in another place agreed that there was misleading advertising, on which she said that there was a package of measures to strengthen controls that had been agreed with stakeholders. These controls were said to be,
“effective, proportionate and evidence-based”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/1/08; col. 285WH.]
However, I understand that advertising of follow-on formula will continue to be allowed, subject to conditions, in print media and broadcasting.
So what are these controls and what is their statutory authority? If they are supported only by the voluntary agreement of the industry and there are no sanctions for non-compliance with the controls or with the guidance that the Minister said was now operational, they are not likely to have much of an impact. The formula market was worth £119 million in 1995 and £199 million in 2006, with the industry spending more than £8 million in the latter year—twice the amount that it spent three years earlier, with television advertising accounting for about 80 per cent of the total. As I say, the effect of this propaganda is to counter the Government’s advice that breastfeeding is best for infants up to at least six months and has long-lasting beneficial effects on health in later life—a message put across with only a fraction of the industry's money.
We welcome the Government’s promise of the independently chaired review to assess whether these regulations and the guidance are working and their undertaking to consider further legislation if the arrangements are found not to be working. Does the Minister agree that unless there is a reduction in the sales of both infant and follow-on formula, the controls will need to be strengthened? If these regulations are the best that we can do within the terms of the directive, what could be done theoretically in 12 months’ time that could not have been contained in the regulations?
Cases have been started in the courts of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, an organisation representing the manufacturers of infant and follow-on formula, aimed at suspending the regulations in all three jurisdictions. The FSA said that it was,
“extremely surprised that companies to whom we have been talking about these regulations for almost three years should decide at the last moment to apply for judicial review”—
unless, of course, their motivation is simply to delay implementation of the directive for as long as possible. They found ways of getting round the previous legislation and, as George Monbiot said in the Guardian, in the drafting of the directive on which these regulations are based the FSA was outgunned by corporate lobbyists. The lobbyists' argument now is that originally there was to be a transition period lasting until the end of 2009, during which they would be able to ship products meeting the previous statutory specifications, which they ignored anyway. But they had already had a lead-in period since the publication of the directive on 30 December 2006 and some had already changed their labelling—the only matter at issue in these cases.
The changes in the labelling requirements are to ensure that customers are able to distinguish clearly between infant and follow-on formula and that follow-on is labelled as being suitable only for infants over six months and then only on the basis of advice from qualified persons. Will the Minister confirm that the industry accepts that advertising and presentation requirements entered into force on 1 January? Of course, advertisements often contain images of the packaging, including the labelling, so the industry would have been able to make the adjustments by 1 January in spite of its protestations now.
I would be grateful if the Minister could say when the 12-month review will start, in the light of these cases, and whether, since it appears on the surface to be the threat of criminal proceedings for non-compliance that caused the IDFA to launch these proceedings, she can give some assurances on the advice given by the FSA on the adoption of a graduated and educative approach to enforcement, which might persuade the litigants to withdraw from these cases.
We have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. The last national infant feeding survey, in 2005, showed that in spite of government encouragement there had been only a marginal improvement over the last 20 years. As the noble Baroness explained, these regulations do not go far enough. I hope that, if the 12-month review does not show that they have made a difference, we shall consider what more can be done within the directive and whether we and like-minded member states should go back to the Commission with firm proposals for more comprehensive implementation of the international code.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for initiating this debate. As my noble friend Lord Avebury indicated, this matter is important not only in this country but internationally. What we do domestically has influence across the world. My noble friend is right: the benefits of promoting breastfeeding are undisputed. All the WHO research shows that to be the case. Every systematic study carried out both here and in the third world has concluded that promoting breastfeeding is in the best interests of the safety and long-term health of children. Yet UK breastfeeding rates at six months are the second lowest in Europe. As my noble friend Lord Avebury said, we have a growing market for infant formula.
These regulations have attracted a fair degree of criticism. The Government have tried not only to comply with the European directive and to promote the health and well-being of children but also to take into account some of the points made by the manufacturers. Those are difficult matters to balance. I believe that, originally, the Government sought to give primacy to children’s welfare. I hope that the judicial review to which my noble friend Lord Avebury referred will not weaken the Government’s resolve to go ahead in the way they originally planned. The Government were right to take the view that we do not have to wait until 2010 to implement the directive and that it is in the best interests of children in this country that these regulations should be adopted sooner. Therefore, I hope that the Government do not cave in in the face of the judicial review. As my noble friend Lord Avebury said, it is important that the directive is implemented as soon as possible so that the review can take place and we can gather the evidence that shows whether the regulations are sufficiently strong. The Minister in another place, Dawn Primarolo, promised that such a review would take place.
It is important to make sure that those who watch our debates understand that this is not merely some dry, technical Eurocratic matter. This legislation has been debated extensively throughout the European Union. Its purpose is to better protect the health of infants and to ensure that information does not counter the promotion of breastfeeding. That is the key argument. No one is going to suggest that there will never be a need for infant formula. There will always be women who cannot breastfeed, for reasons of illness either of them or of their children. It will always be a necessary product. What is wrong is to advertise it in such a way that one undermines a person’s ability to continue to breastfeed when they can do so. The point is about when information becomes advertising and promotion of a product rather than promotion of health. That is what we are trying to focus on this evening.
In many ways, the regulations are a compromise; they do not go as far as they might. We have not gone as far down the line as some of the Scandinavian countries, which have managed to come to an agreement whereby companies have adopted a voluntary ban on advertising of all follow-on formula. As my noble friend Lord Avebury and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, there is a widespread view that follow-on formula is unnecessary and is in fact perhaps unhelpful to families bringing up small children who may be learning for the first time the process of weaning a child on to other foodstuffs.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, is right that in third-world countries there have been instances of child deaths attributable to contamination from other elements used to rehydrate the powders. It is regrettable that in the regulations there is no requirement for there to be clear information about the risk of contamination and advice about how such risk can be avoided by, for example, rehydrating using clean water and sterile vessels.
Finally, it is important that women with young babies continue to have access to advice and support about breastfeeding. For those women who experience difficulties and who may start to breastfeed and then for reasons of illness may have to change, it is crucial to their health and that of their children that they have access to helpful midwives and health visitors and that the information should be free from all commercial pressures. That is the absolute bottom line as far as we on these Benches are concerned. Therefore, can the Minister confirm that that would be the effect of the regulations?
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for introducing the debate, which has not been entirely what I expected, although if I had really thought about it I might have known that it would concentrate largely on breastfeeding. I will not do so. The main objections to the regulations are, first, that the implementation is being unnecessarily rushed. The date of l January 2008 does not give opportunity for companies to put into action the new labelling required, on either new or current products, in a reasonable timescale. The detail on the labelling in the directive is extensive, so it cannot be fudged.
Secondly, there has been insufficient consideration of the guidance, which has not yet completed its consultation process. Normal procedure, whereby guidance is published at least three months before statutory instruments come into force, has consequently not happened. Any guidance that is now published, if the timescale of the regulations is not changed, will be well after the statutory instrument has been implemented.
As the Minister will know, and as has been said by other speakers, the rushing of the regulations, and their timing of January 2008, has been challenged in the High Court by the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, and this action has yet to be heard. However, it has been brought about because of the unexplained alteration in the timetable for labelling and advertising from a two-year transition period to implementation by January 2008. No explanation appears to have been given for the move from the original timetable in the draft regulations of July 2007.
This is one aspect that the Minister might like to resolve tonight, since it is clear from the information that I have been given that every other European country is giving the two-year transition period to 31 December 2009. What is the rush? Why cannot these regulations be implemented in a businesslike and careful way, allowing time for new products to contain the right information and allowing those products already produced and either on the market or ready for market to retain the current labelling until then? Of course it is important that the differential between infant formula and follow-on formula can be clearly demonstrated, but I fail to understand why that should be done against a background of extreme urgency and incomplete guidance.
The Minister will also know that there is concern about the bias, which has partly been demonstrated today, against the advertising of products and the fact that guidance notes go beyond the restrictions in the 2007 regulations, which would have limited advertising of infant formula to scientific publications. However, under the new guidance, this is now restricted to where such publications report the results of original scientific research and reviews. That is a very limited range. As the Advertising Association makes clear in its briefing to me, this removes the right to advertise infant formula in professional journals, which are largely accessed by healthcare professionals.
I appreciate that there are those who believe that there should be no advertising of these products. Most other speakers tonight have supported that view. Like others, I have been briefed by Baby Milk Action, but to be realistic people need to know that there are formula products available and they need to have good information about their use. There is no doubt that there are many mothers in this country and elsewhere who are either unable or unwilling to breastfeed. While it is accepted that breastfeeding gives a baby an excellent start in life, such mothers should not be intimidated into believing that using a formula product is going to give their babies a lesser chance in life.
I know from recent experience the great upset that there can be to a new mother who is unable to satisfy the appetite of her baby by breastfeeding, when formula products are either withheld—this does happen—because breastfeeding is perceived to be the only feed that should be given, or else are not available. The sounds of distress from an underfed baby are not helpful to it or to its beleaguered parents. There is more concern in the directive to prevent the promotion of formula products than to present them as a reasonable alternative. I am afraid that that is my view rather than that of the professionals. However, professionals need to be informed, and well balanced and controlled advertising in their own publications seems to be a straightforward way of doing this. Clearly, these matters are still unresolved in relation to the new regulations.
The Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee draws attention to Baby Milk Action’s concerns that the question of labelling giving details of the minimum temperature of water used for mixing the formula does not seem to have been resolved either. It would seem logical that the manufacturers should be involved in discussions as to whether and why this is necessary now, before they have to introduce new labelling, rather than in 12 months’ time, or 12 months after the FSA’s independent review. That is another good reason for giving a proper transition time.
From those points alone, there seems ample reason to suggest that the regulations are premature. The Government should give their own consultation on the guidelines time to be completed and time for responses to be carefully considered. The transitional timetable that is being implemented in all other countries should be available in this country.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for introducing this important debate on the merits of the new Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations 2007, laid before the House in December, and I thank other noble Lords for their contributions.
It is with trepidation that I begin these remarks, given the reputation and expertise that that noble Baroness brings to your Lordships’ House and I pay tribute to her fantastic work in championing health issues. I agree with the eloquent points the noble Baroness and other noble Lords made about the importance of supporting, protecting and promoting breastfeeding in the interests of giving all infants the best start in life.
The Government take infant health extremely seriously and are determined to act to promote and protect breastfeeding in the interests of giving all infants the best start in life and to make sure that mothers are in the best position possible to make informed decisions about feeding choices for their babies. The Government’s central policy—and their challenge, as other noble Lords outlined—is to encourage, protect and support breastfeeding. We have achieved an increase in breastfeeding initiation rates in the UK from 69 per cent in 2000 to 76 per cent in 2005—but there is a great deal more to do. The Government are continuing to create a supportive environment for breastfeeding, through ongoing work and campaigns. I am sure that noble Lords will be pleased to learn that the National Breastfeeding Helpline was launched on 15 February.
The Government are working in partnership with concerned organisations and the helpline to give new mums practical support and encourage them to breastfeed longer. Many noble Lords made that point. All calls to the line in the UK will be charged at local rates and we hope that this will be of particular benefit to mothers from disadvantaged groups and young mothers who will be able to access specialist advice at the time of need and help them to continue breastfeeding.
Equally, the Government have a duty to ensure that adequate controls are in place to protect bottle-fed babies and mothers who do not choose to or are unable to breastfeed. For those mothers, the Government want to ensure that they receive the best advice that they can so that they can choose what is best for their babies without other people interfering in those decisions or causing confusion. That is why the Government have put in place stricter controls on the promotion, labelling and composition of infant formula and follow-on formula.
The Government’s priority is to ensure that infant and follow-on formulas are clearly labelled so that parents and carers who wish to use these products can do so in the correct way. This is what these regulations set out to do and is why they are important and consequently the subject of much interest and debate. This code is for the benefit of all mothers. It is there to protect bottle-feeding mothers as well as breastfeeding mothers, because it is about the provision of wholly independent and evidence-based information.
The Government support the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent amending World Health Assembly resolutions. Where the code places responsibility on governments, we have acted to enshrine in our policies the principles it sets out. The World Health Organisation’s recommendations are very wide-ranging in their scope, with some relating to detailed labelling provisions, others to the functioning of the healthcare system and others still to the corporate responsibilities of manufacturers. The regulations address the recommendations relating to the composition, labelling and advertising of formula, and implement EU directive 2006/141/EC on infant formula and follow-on formula. This new directive was informed, in part, by the WHO recommendations and provides increased consumer protection when compared to the previous legislation. In addition, the Government in 2003 implemented the WHO guidance to recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding alongside the introduction of complementary feeding, and will be adopting the new WHO growth standards as recommended by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
I recognise that several NGOs, including the Baby Milk Action Group, the National Childbirth Trust, the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition and others are calling for further regulations to ban all advertising and promotion of breastmilk substitutes, including follow-on formula, and want the Government to implement the entire WHO code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. The Government are determined to take tough action to stamp out marketing, promotion and advertising practices which undermine breastfeeding directly and indirectly. Indeed, this is evidenced by the Government’s Choosing Health White Paper, which made a commitment to review the relevant provisions of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995, with a view further to restrict the promotion of infant formula. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, will accept this reassurance.
I assure noble Lords that the Government’s new controls are as tight as possible within the constraints of the EU law and have been specifically drafted to address loopholes in the 1995 regulations, which allow manufacturers to market and promote their products in ways that do not enable UK consumers clearly to differentiate infant formula and follow-on formula when purchasing products, and which bypass restrictions on advertising of infant formula by labelling and advertising follow-on formula in such a way that it is often difficult to distinguish the practice from advertising for infant formula. This is unacceptable and the Government are determined to take tough action to remove this confusion. In this way the new directive and regulations provide for increased consumer protection compared with the previous infant formula legislation.
The key changes include: updated rules on the composition of all types of formula; tighter rules on the labelling of all types of formula; tighter restrictions relating to the marketing and promotion of infant formula; requirements for companies to label, present and advertise infant formula and follow-on formula in such a way as to avoid confusion between them in the mind of the consumer; a requirement for companies to make clear on the product packaging that follow-on formula should be used only by infants from six months of age; restrictions on the number of health and nutrition claims that can be used on infant formula; and the introduction of national notification requirements, which allow European Union countries to monitor the marketing of new infant formula more effectively.
The Government will also be introducing robust guidance for industry and enforcement authorities on how correctly to apply the new law. The guidance will make it very clear that advertising practice for follow-on formula must change and formula for older babies must be clearly labelled and advertised such that it is clearly distinguishable from infant formula. This is necessary because advertisements for follow-on formula, which may include presentation of the packaged and labelled product, have the potential to be seen as adverts for infant formula, a practice which is specifically prohibited so as not to undermine government advice that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
These tough new measures will give effect to the principles and aims of the WHO code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and will protect breastfeeding by substantially restricting advertising, requiring proper labelling and prohibiting the donation of any informational or educational material by formula manufacturers unless it has been specifically authorised by the Government, prohibiting the advertising of infant formula to the public, and prohibiting any follow-on formula advertising which promotes infant formula. I hope that this will go some way to meeting the noble Baroness’s points.
In addition, the Government have given a further and key commitment to provide an independently chaired review of the new controls. That point has been recognised by other noble Lords. If after time it is found that the new arrangements are not working effectively or delivering the necessary level of protection for babies, because the arrangements have been circumvented or because new methods of promotion emerge, the Government will respond proportionately and consider taking further legislative action.
My Lords, the point is that the independent review after the controls are in place will allow us to assess whether or not this is working. If it is not working, as my honourable friend in another place said, the Government are determined to take action and to make this work. We are confident that this package is effective, proportionate and evidence-based, and, together with the independently chaired review, is a big step forwards in the protection of mothers and babies. As the noble Baroness stated, the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association is challenging the new regulations in England and Wales, which we wanted to come into force on 11 January 2008.
On the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, the guidance is not being rushed in. The guidance that has been brought forward has been discussed and the directive was published in 2006. The industry has been aware since that time of the labelling changes that will be required. The Government believe that that is time enough for it to have taken action and time enough for it to bring forward the necessary changes.
We are very disappointed that the new regulations have been challenged. As noble Lords have said, they have been suspended by the High Court until the hearing of the substantive application for judicial review which will take place by the end of February. Similar implementing regulations in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also the subject of legal challenge in those jurisdictions. The court in Scotland has declined to stay the regulations on an interim basis and the court in Northern Ireland has granted a temporary stay. The case in Scotland will be heard tomorrow.
Clearly, we are disappointed by the IDFA’s decision to bring proceedings and the Government are fighting the case because they consider that they have implemented the transitional provisions in line with the obligations of the directive. The Government’s intention and policy objective were clear before the new directive was published in 2006. The industry has been aware since that time of the labelling changes that it will be required to make. The Government are committed to those regulations and will ensure that they apply as soon as possible, taking into account the outcome of the court proceedings.
In conclusion, I reiterate that the Government’s priority is to ensure that infant formula and follow-on formula are clearly labelled so that parents and carers who wish to use those products can do so correctly. I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her Motion.
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for drawing our attention to the international code that goes back to 1981 and to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, for placing this debate in the context of European debates and legislation. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, made some very important points which have been raised by the formula companies themselves. She also drew our attention to the fact that breastfeeding for some women is very difficult and that they need support.
With great pleasure we heard from the Minister about the introduction of the national breastfeeding helpline, which was introduced last week. I think it will be an extremely important source of help and support for women who are trying to establish breastfeeding.
I am also glad to hear that there will be an independent review and that the Government intend to take action on it and the background to the timeframe for the introduction of the current regulations, which are currently subject to judicial review. With regard to that background and to the very helpful comments from the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.29 pm.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
[The Sitting was suspended from 8.13 to 8.29 pm.]