HL Deb 01 May 1991 vol 528 cc745-7

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are opposing the proposed EC regulation on mince and mincemeat products, which would prohibit the preparation of traditional Scottish fare.

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

My Lords, the Government will fight to ensure that traditional Scottish fare is not endangered when discussions in Brussels start on the proposed EC rules for mince and mincemeat products. We remain just as determined to safeguard traditional Scottish fare as we were when I replied to my noble friend in April last year that we would defend the great British sausage, minced meat and burgers to the end.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her reply and for her earlier support of my defence of the British sausage. Should not the EC Commission take into account the different tastes and customs in member countries? In Britain mince is cooked whereas in France it is normally eaten raw.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, with acknowledgement to the author, the honourable Member for Penrith and The Border, A Scotsman's belief is that mince must be beef. Imitations bring instant dismissal. But same people abroad Will contentedly plod Through a plate full of horsemeat and gristle … The Burghers of Brussels Are flexing their muscles They want us to eat steak tartare. We don't need their law. We don't eat mince raw. On this, we shall just shut the door.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, is the Minister aware that if the EC commissioners start interfering with British real ale, pork pies and Barnsley black pudding, they will incur the wrath of the nation? I hope she can assure us that these proposed EC food regulations will not threaten our traditional English fare of good wholesome food and drink.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned black pudding. That, of course, is cooked before it is sold and will be cooked again before it is eaten. Therefore it does not come under this specific directive. Having said that, I agree with the noble Lord.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

My Lords, I urge my noble friend to do better than she has done in the past. Will she explain why one of the greatest delicacies—the thought of which causes me to smack my lips—has been unavailable to customers in Scotland? I speak of the sheep's head.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I do not know that my lips are smacking. I would say, go find a sheep, take its head and do with it what you will.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that this is a serious matter going far wider than the exchanges that have so far taken place? Is she aware also that the Common Market apparently intends to insist that cheddar cheese must be made in Cheddar, bakewell tarts in Bakewell and anything else indicative of location in the appropriate area? Is she further aware that the Commission apparently intends to interfere with the crisp flavours that the great British public enjoy in pubs and elsewhere? Does that not reduce the whole business to complete absurdity? Will the Government inform the Common Market Commission that enough is enough?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, no doubt your Lordships have seen in various newspapers that my honourable friend the Member for Penrith and The Border has taken a very positive stand against the various proposals. They are as yet proposals. We are fighting them as hard as we can and discussions are proceeding.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, the noble Baroness defends the sausage with vigour worthy of a better cause. Would it not be more sensible if the Government had decent liaison with the Commission and pointed out the stupidities of some of the regulations before they are formulated?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, we have a very close association with our EC partners. Our officials are in constant touch with their opposite numbers. We do not wish to give in to proposals that we consider verging on the ridiculous. But each country has its own feelings about its own products. I feel sure that we shall get support in various areas from our partners.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, can the noble Baroness say whether the haggis is at risk?

Baroness Trumpington

No, my Lords, because it is boiled before it is sold and, I hope, cooked again before it is eaten.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall that we have corresponded on this subject? While the correspondence on her side has always been conducted with complete courtesy, on the whole it has been somewhat futile. Can she assure the House that if the worst comes to the worst Britain will seek to negotiate a position under the proposals from Brussels whereby national dishes like mince and sausage will still be available in this country provided an undertaking is given to the Commission that no attempt will be made to export them from this country to other member states? A further proviso should be an undertaking to the Commission that in the event of a Community standard for these commodities, Britain will allow Community products conforming to those standards to come into Britain without let or hindrance. In other words the British will have the benefit of both worlds—namely, their own produce and Continental produce—and will be free to choose between them.

Baroness Trumpington

No, my Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord. We want to find a solution which enables British products to be traded freely in the single market as well as at home.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it now seems impossible to buy sheeps' heads in butchers' shops? The last time my husband asked the butcher if he had a sheep's head, the butcher said, "No, it is only the way I part my hair".

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the noble Baroness's department enlist the aid of the British Members of the European Parliament to ensure that these crass absurdities are not continued and that similar ones in the future are prevented?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the Government will oppose any unnecessary restrictions. They welcome the support of the industry and of the Meat and Livestock Commission. In anticipation of discussions in Brussels, Ministry officials have met their counterparts in other member states to seek a solution.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, arising out of this coupling of territorial imperatives to the culinary art, can the noble Baroness say under what EC regulation we should classify toad-in-the-hole?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, it will be very interesting to see how the name of that dish is translated into all the different EC languages.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that if the draft regulations were adopted in their present form there would be a significant rise in price of what in Scotland is a staple dish?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, it is not only a staple dish; it is an economic one. There are no sound hygiene reasons for the restrictions, particularly when the products are meant to be cooked before consumption. My noble friend is quite right. The regulations would raise costs and reduce consumer choice.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that as certain high ranking people in our society objected to wine coming from somewhere other than the Champagne district of France it would be just as absurd for it to be labelled champagne?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, it was no one except the French who objected to champagne coming from anywhere outside the Champagne district.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, on the contrary, people in society in England objected to being sold what they call fake champagne.

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