Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): If the right hon. Lady has been into supermarkets, she will be aware that, before the small packs are put on to the shelf, the product usually arrives in a large pack. There is much scope for someone in the back of the shop to decide what label to put on the packs. I hope that the Food Standards Agency will examine exactly what is put on the labels after the main pack has come into the supermarket.

Ms Quin: It is extremely clear from our debates on the matter that the Food Standards Agency is able to consider

8 Nov 1999 : Column 847

labelling generally and its importance to the consumer, both in terms of freedom of choice--a matter mentioned by several hon. Members--and to avoid consumers being misled by labels. During the passage of the Bill, many examples of the problems of misleading labelling were given by hon. Members on both sides of the House and by Members in the other place. Arguments about the dangers of inadequate labelling--especially of substances that could provoke allergies--were well and strongly made during the debate in the other place.

I was a little surprised that the hon. Member for Meriden did not give the Government more credit for accepting the amendment tabled in the other place by the Baroness Byford, the Opposition spokesperson. To her credit, she was extremely active in promoting the labelling issue.

Mr. Paice: It was the Government's amendment.

Ms Quin: The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) says that it is the Government's amendment, but the amendment to which I referred was tabled by the Opposition in the other place. The amendment introduced by the hon. Member for Meriden is a further amendment to that amendment.I am surprised that the hon. Lady did not welcome it more enthusiastically. I am grateful that hon. Members of other parties recognise how active the Government have been in respect of labelling.

12.45 am

Mr. Paice: For the record, the amendment was tabled by Baroness Hayman, whose speech appears at column 909--I do not have the exact date--of that part of the House of Lords' consideration of the Bill. It might have been tabled in response to pressure from Conservatives, but the wording is the Government's, which is why we want to amend it.

Ms Quin: The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the amendment was the initiative of Baroness Byford, to whom I give credit. It is true that she agreed it with the Government, but for the Opposition now to stand back from the amendment strikes me as incredible. The least that the hon. Member for Meriden could do is give more generous recognition to the way in which the Government bowed before the concern expressed in the other place.

The Conservatives have only discovered an enthusiasm for labelling in opposition. The Labour party has been enthusiastic and active on the issue both in opposition and in government. That is the clear difference between us. Ministers have explained on numerous occasions that the Food Standards Agency will be responsible for policy and advice on labelling matters to Ministers and the public. We are entirely satisfied that the Bill provides the necessary powers for the agency to take a full and active role in that matter, through its role in protecting the interests of consumers in relation to food.

When we accepted the ideas advanced by Baroness Byford in another place, we did so in a way that was consistent with the wording of the regulation-making power in section 16 of the Food Safety Act 1990. That is important if we are not to create confusion or uncertainty about the scope of the agency's role in that matter. The Opposition amendment to which the hon. Member for

8 Nov 1999 : Column 848

Meriden spoke would expand our amendment and create inconsistency within the legislation in respect of the main regulation power relating to labelling. Therefore, we believe that it is inappropriate.

I understand the concern expressed by various hon. Members about improved country-of-origin labelling on foods. The Government, too, are concerned and we are active at European level in that respect. That answers in part the points raised by the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). However, labelling is not an area in which we have a free hand, as the hon. Gentleman hinted and as the Opposition Front Benchers have not been prepared to recognise in their approach to the amendment. We need to get agreement at European level on various aspects of labelling, although voluntary labelling is possible.

Given the vigilance of the hon. Member for Meriden in looking for labels in shops, she will know that country-of-origin labelling is becoming increasingly common, especially on meat and meat products. I welcome that. The snag is that the labelling is not always accurate, which is why the arguments on misleading labelling are so important.

We have to be careful not to impose on the agency duties that it is unable to perform--a point raised by the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East. We have to recognise the limitations prevailing within the single market on unilateral changes to labelling, while taking every opportunity to give consumers the information that they need, including information on country of origin.

The effect of the Opposition amendment would be wider than simply inserting in the Bill a requirement for country-of-origin rules. Under it, the agency would be given a remit encompassing general issues of sourcing--the hon. Member for Meriden appears to agree with that. However, some issues may be outwith the agency's responsibility. The agency cannot have overall responsibility for sourcing because that is often based on commercial decisions, such as availability and seasonality, and has nothing to do with food safety and quality. They are the issues for which the agency is responsible.

Although I understand and sympathise with the spirit of the amendment, for the technical reason that I have given and in light of its wider definition of sourcing, it is not appropriate to include the amendment in the Bill in its present form. The amendment has been introduced at a very late stage. We conceded generously to the concerns about labelling that were expressed in the other place--a fact that I hope the hon. Lady will recognise and welcome.

Mr. Peter Bradley: The Minister is correct to point out that we are debating a Food Standards Bill and a Food Standards Agency, not a food sourcing agency. Can she assure the House that imported food in our shops will meet the same standards of animal welfare and food hygiene as home-grown and home-produced food? That is the best way both to give consumers information on which they can base an informed choice and to ensure that domestic farmers operate on a level playing field.

Ms Quin: I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised that point, to which he made a slightly different allusion earlier.

We are governed by both national and European requirements in this area. There are European standards for food quality and safety, which we apply. In certain

8 Nov 1999 : Column 849

cases, we also apply higher national standards, which is permissible. However, we cannot block imports from other European Union countries when there are agreed European standards. That refers to the point made earlier by the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East.

There are recognised safety standards within the European Commission that countries outside the European Union are required to meet before they can import to the EU. The EU is becoming increasingly interested in food safety, and European Commission President Prodi has advanced ideas for a European food standards agency, authority or some kind of mechanism to ensure that European consumers' general concerns for both safety and quality within the internal market are satisfied properly in future. We want to contribute constructively to that debate.

We believe that the Government's record on labelling is second to none, and vastly superior to the woeful record of the Conservatives during 18 years in office. We do not need to take advice from the Opposition, and I hope that the hon. Lady will reflect on the fact that, both technically and in substance, the amendment is not appropriate to the Bill.

Mrs. Spelman: The Opposition regret that, like her predecessors, the Minister is unwilling to incorporate in the Food Standards Bill this important amendment about the labelling part of sourcing. For that reason, we shall press the matter to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 135, Noes 266.

Division No. 308
[12.54 am


Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mrs. Eleanor Laing and
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Snape, Peter
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Jim Dowd and
Mr. Mike Hall.

Question accordingly negatived.

8 Nov 1999 : Column 852

It being one and a half hours after commencement of proceedings on the supplemental allocation of time motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the remaining Questions required to be put at that hour.

Motion made, and Question put, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.--[Ms Quin.]

The House divided: Ayes 276, Noes 9

Next Section

IndexHome Page