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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, when my noble friend comes to examine the second supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will she also consider whether it might be possible for the Luxembourg Court not just to fine the 14 other countries but to fine the Commission itself?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that is an interesting suggestion. I am not sure that it is one that will bear much fruit, but I shall look at it.

Lord Richard: My Lords, can the Minister confirm the position as I understand it, which is that there may be a theoretical argument which says that such a ban on non-food products might be imposed whereas in fact for the past 40 years the Community has had the common sense not to do that?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that is absolutely right. If substances are dangerous, such as those which are subject to Regulation 2455/92 which relates to hazardous chemicals, member states must implement the importing country's decisions. However, that does not usually relate to products that are manufactured or used within the Community. It usually applies where those substances pass from a third country, through a Community country, and onward. That is why we need to take some care in making the sort of comments that are often made in relation to legislation to which we can fully sign up because it is in the interests of the protection of the health and safety of our people as well as of those in 14 other member states.

Clydesdale District Council: Proceedings

3.1 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): My Lords, the proceedings between Clydesdale District Council and Mr. Errington were concluded on 28th February 1996. The sheriff found in favour of Mr. Errington and awarded costs to him for the value of his cheese and expenses from 14th February 1995 to be met by Clydesdale District Council. On 1st July 1996 I met Mr. Errington and the new director of public protection services at South Lanarkshire Council, the successor

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council to Clydesdale District Council. The meeting established the willingness of both parties to forge a new working relationship for the future.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Is he aware of how much I personally appreciate the courtesy and attention with which he has listened to representations made on behalf of Mr. Errington and the trouble that he has taken to visit Mr. Errington at his farm to inquire into what happened? That was most unusual and I should like my noble friend to realise that my thanks on this occasion are not merely formal. He has done marvellously well.

However, there is just one little point that I should like to add. I am sure that my noble friend has done all that he can to urge Clydesdale District Council to pay the huge sum of costs awarded against it by the sheriff. Does my noble friend know whether the council has yet paid those costs?

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's kind remarks. Given my noble friend's previous track record, I had imagined that there might well be a sting in the tail. Perhaps I may commend the energy with which my noble friend has brought this matter to the attention of Ministers and the House. All who have been involved in the case are agreed that lessons have been learned and that much good will come of that unfortunate episode.

My noble friend asked specifically about costs. Mr. Errington has received payment with regard to the judicial review and the appeal. With regard to legal and witness fees in respect of the sheriff court hearing which commenced on 14th August, the sum involved has yet to be settled, but the hearing date has been settled and the sheriff intends to award Mr. Errington his costs. I remind the House that Mr. Errington makes a very fine product which I commend to all those who like blue cheese.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, perhaps I may associate myself with the grateful thanks which the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, has expressed to the Minister for the trouble that he has taken. Not only were the noble Earl's actions correct, but he went even further on this occasion than he need have done. We are all glad that the matter now seems to have been resolved. I do not think that I have ever read as much background material on any Question as on this.

Will the Minister consider one or two other points? I understand that the original complaint came from the local authority in Edinburgh and that the South Lanarkshire people had to examine it. There was then an investigation by the Scottish Agricultural College which said that the product could be dangerous, but another college, the Analytical Service Centre in Motherwell, gave it the "all clear". What worries me now is how we can reassure the public that our food hygiene practices are safe. Was this episode a one-off or does it indicate that procedures need to be tightened up? I wonder, for instance, whether we should have a government analyst to supervise such matters.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that public health will remain paramount in

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all such cases. Indeed, Edinburgh District Council and a further two district councils analysed the cheese originally and found it to be in excess of the listeria threshold. However, the science involved in listeria is complex. Clearly, one needs a combination of increased research, which we are providing, and increased education for environmental health officers, which we are currently considering, as well as the further development of a code of best practice, upon which the Scottish Office, MAFF and the Department of Health are working with food authorities and specialist cheesemakers.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, can the noble Earl tell us what this fascinating cheese is called?

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, it is called Lanark Blue and it is regularly available in the Dining Room next door.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, what costs have so far been incurred in the case by the complainant and by the local authority? Can the noble Earl give us some idea of the extent of the liability which will fall to be met by the ratepayers of Strathclyde Regional Council?

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, details of many of the costs arising from the case are not in the public domain. I believe that Mr. Errington has not released information on the costs which he has already been paid for the judicial review and the appeal. I told the House a little earlier that the costs associated with the sheriff court have still to be finalised, but they will be paid to Mr. Errington. Costs have been awarded against Clydesdale District Council, which is now South Lanarkshire Council.

Liaison: Select Committee Report

3.7 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the second report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 96) be agreed to.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

    European Communities Committee

    1. In our First Report, Session 1993-94, we recommended that the European Communities Committee should appoint a sixth sub-committee on the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference and indicated that the number of sub-committees to be appointed thereafter would be a matter for further review in the light of other proposals for select committee work.

    2. We now recommend that the European Communities Committee should be able to appoint six sub-committees for an experimental period of two years from the start of next session. This is in order to enable the Committee to improve its scrutiny of subjects which have not been satisfactorily accommodated within the existing structure of five sub-committees. We propose to review the position after two years.

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    Science and Technology Committee

    3. Our First Report, Session 1993-94, also recommended that the number of sub-committees of the Science and Technology Committee should remain at two, and indicated that this would be further reviewed. We have concluded that the number of sub-committees should continue to be two for the time being.

    A Foreign Affairs Committee

    4. The Select Committee on the Committee Work of the House (the "Jellicoe Committee") considered the possibility of appointing a sessional select committee on foreign affairs. It concluded, in paragraph 123 of its report (HL Paper 35-I, session 1991-92):

    "We acknowledge that there are sound arguments in favour of a foreign affairs committee. There is a wealth of relevant experience in the House and in these rapidly changing times there would be no shortage of suitable subjects for enquiry. Foreign affairs is such a wide policy area that any danger of duplication with the Commons' Committee on Foreign Affairs could be overcome, given prior consultation between the two committees. We acknowledge too that there are areas of foreign policy which receive little or no detailed parliamentary scrutiny. Despite these arguments, however, we share the misgivings, which were expressed by some witnesses (paragraph 38), at the prospect of select committees in the two Houses tackling the same general policy areas; and it has to be said that very few Lords proposed a foreign affairs committee. Finally, we do not accept the argument that, without the benefit of a select committee, debates on foreign affairs in the Chamber can be unfocused or have had little influence. On balance, therefore, we have decided not to recommend the appointment of a foreign affairs committee, though we recommend that the Steering Committee review the proposal from time to time, particularly as foreign and security policies develop within the European Community."

    5. This Committee, which performs the functions of the Steering Committee recommended by the Jellicoe Committee, has accordingly reconsidered the matter. We do not at this stage recommend the appointment of a foreign affairs committee, but we would review the matter again if it appeared that there was significant support for it in the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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