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Earl Howe: My Lords, the question that was put to me I took to mean that if a new cheese were invented, that manufacturer could seek to have it registered as a traditional product if a traditional process were involved. The cheese would then be added to the list of traditional products which we are seeking to have agreed with the Commission. But that does not negate the need to be aware of the hygiene of the cheese process itself. Of course, that will be an abiding concern for the manufacturer and the environmental health officer, as appropriate.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, I am confused. If a cheese is new, how can it be traditional?

Earl Howe: My Lords, it would be registered as a traditional cheese if a traditional process were involved, which is very often the case with new cheeses. They often follow a traditional cheese making process.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords—

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I know that cheese is a very exciting subject and that we are all very fond of it, but I wonder whether it is not the turn of the Cross-Benches.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, do the French implement this legislation as assiduously as we do?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the legislation will be implemented universally across the Community, subject to any derogations that might apply. The directive provides for Commission inspectors to be appointed to make on-the-spot checks on establishments in member states to ensure uniform application of the directive throughout the European Community.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the Minister explain why, in Council, the United Kingdom

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assented to a ridiculous intervention in what is not a significant matter here? In fact, most of us are getting cheesed off with an intervention on this scale, which is so ridiculous that it ought to have been laughed out when it was first brought to the Council of Ministers.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the United Kingdom voted in favour of the directive because we knew that the implications for our cheese industry would be next to none. The procedures followed by environmental officers and the cheese manufacturers themselves will remain almost exactly the same. Our intention is that common sense shall prevail.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the directive states:


    "Member States may, in so far as certain requirements of this Directive are likely to affect the manufacture of milk-based products with traditional characteristics, be authorised to grant individual or general derogation from Article 7A(1) to (4)"?

If that is the case, will my noble friend give me an undertaking that the Government will ask for a general derogation and not a particular derogation for particular cheeses, but that if it is for particular cheeses it will be set in stone and not alterable?

Earl Howe: My Lords, we are required to submit a list of the cheeses which we believe should be counted as traditional. The list is now being compiled and if any noble Lord knows of a cheese which he believes should be on the list my colleagues in the Ministry will be interested to hear. My noble friend must recognise that life does not stand still. New cheeses are invented and they will need to be separately considered as and when the time comes.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the Minister has confirmed that listeriosis is a most unpleasant disease. Is it correct that if a case of listeriosis were to result from the consumption of cheese the manufacturer would be caught by the due diligence requirements in the Food Safety Act? If so, what is all the fuss about the European directive?

Earl Howe: My Lords, at present that is the case, although the European directive will not apply to cheese at the retail level; it applies only to cheese at the manufacturing level. The essential provisions will remain exactly the same. That is why I said to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, that we do not believe that there will be any substantive difference in the way that cheesemakers must behave in the United Kingdom.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that listeria is far more likely to be a danger in soft rather than hard cheeses? Should we not have a European directive suggesting that the French should get rid of their 172 soft cheeses in favour of the old-fashioned, superior and much better Cheddar?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the short answer to my noble friend is that, as regards the majority of your Lordships and others, that would be a severe case of hard cheese! The noble Lord is essentially correct as regards his substantive point. While listeria can occur in any type of cheese, the chief medical officer has recommended

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that certain groups of people, including pregnant mothers, should avoid soft cheeses in view of the slightly higher risk involved.

Cyprus: Dispute

3.23 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What international action is in hand to end the economic blockade of Armenia by Turkey and the occupation of northern Cyprus by the armed forces of Turkey.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we expect all blockades that have resulted from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be lifted as part of an overall peace settlement. In the meantime, we have urged all countries in the region at least to allow the transit of humanitarian aid. The UN Secretary-General is continuing his good offices mission, which is designed to secure a peaceful, just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus dispute. We actively support his efforts and joined in securing UN Security Council Resolution 789, which called for reductions in the number of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, in particular the first part. Does he agree that NATO is brought into disrepute as an alliance of democratic countries when one of its members is in long-term breach of international law as regards its neighbouring states and the civil liberty of its own population?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we believe that it is of the greatest importance that all countries abide by the norms of civilised international behaviour. It is an important element of our policy to ensure that this occurs. NATO's role is the collective defence of its member states and the preservation of peace in Europe, in which it has been most successful.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, has the United Nations attempted to bring representatives of both Governments to a neutral place in order thoroughly to examine the situation? As a result of reading about events and visiting these places, it appears that both countries would welcome an invitation although they are not prepared to invite one another. That is a role that the United Nations should fulfil and perhaps Her Majesty's Government should urge it so to do.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is referring to northern Cyprus. The United Nations has a long involvement in the difficult problems facing Cyprus. We believe that it is doing everything that can possibly be done to bring the relevant parties together.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that Turkey's six-year blockade of Armenia has caused great suffering, especially during the winter months when for days Yerevan has no electricity and temperatures are minus 20 degrees, with all that that means for old people and children as well as causing

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devastation to the economy? Will my noble friend give an assurance that Turkey's current request to participate in the peace-keeping process and to send military personnel for the peace-keeping forces in the conflict with Karabakh is outrageous and will receive no sympathetic consideration until the blockade is lifted?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my noble friend is right in describing the terrible domestic conditions in Armenia. We believe that the right way forward in trying to resolve the outstanding and considerable difficulties is through the offices of the OSCE, in particular the Minsk group, which was a British initiative and is currently co-chaired by the Swedes and the Russians. We would welcome any genuine efforts that bring about the cessation of hostilities, followed up by a political settlement.

Baroness Jeger: My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government make absolutely clear to the Turkish Government that until they observe the standards of human rights that have been laid down by the United Nations, and until they appreciate the importance of accepting UN resolutions on Cyprus, there can be no question of them being allowed to join the European Union or any trade association connected therewith?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as I explained in an earlier answer, we believe that it is important that the proper norms of civilised international behaviour are observed. The Government have on numerous occasions drawn to the attention of the Turkish authorities our concerns about human rights abuses and other problems in that country. Nevertheless, we are anxious to try to bring forward changes that will put an end to such evils. We believe that the best way of doing so is to work with the people in public life in Turkey who want to see those changes. We do not wish to isolate them and merely give benefit to those who wish for the continuation of oppressive behaviour.


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