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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I hope the noble Lord can help the House. When he says that we were only five votes short--of course I accept that we should not press him into revealing from which countries the general voting structure emerged--can he tell us whether he is looking for 26 votes to block an initiative, or 62 votes to promote a new one, out of the 87 votes which I mentioned?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I am aware of the figures that the noble Lord has put before the House on more than one occasion. However, I do not propose to go beyond my previous reply. This is a matter of qualified majority voting.
As regards timing, I hope that it will be possible for the Council to reach a common position on the proposed directive during our presidency. The existing directive will continue to be implemented until a new directive is agreed. UK manufacturers will be able to continue to use non-cocoa vegetable fats in their products in accordance with existing conditions. They will also be able to continue to make milk chocolate with a higher milk content and sell it as milk chocolate in this country. But when it is exported to member states it will have to be called the equivalent of milk chocolate with a high milk content. In some languages this is translated in a derogatory way as household milk chocolate, as a number of noble Lords have pointed out.
As regards our legal position, if there is a failure in that regard I shall write to the noble Baroness about it. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, asked about a single definition of milk chocolate. I have already touched on that. I point out that the Government have proposed such a single definition on several occasions but so far the majority of member states want two separate definitions.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, asked whether vegetable fats should be listed on labels. Our reservation about that is that it would be unnecessarily restrictive for manufacturers and could limit technological developments. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was a member of the committee. He referred to drinking chocolate and chocolate cake. I reassure him that the proposed chocolate directive safeguards the use of such customary names. We shall certainly resist any attempts to change that. I believe the noble Lord said that few people eat less chocolate now than they did a few years ago. I agree with that in general but, sadly, I must confess that it does not apply to me. I am deprived of all the delights of market testing that have been mentioned. This debate has revived happy memories of chocolate delights enjoyed long ago.
In conclusion, I refer to the central question of the noble Lord, Lord Reay. I should make it clear that the Government will not agree to any solution which discriminates against traditional British products or narrows the effective range of choice of British consumers. I say in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, that during our presidency we shall do our utmost to search for a genuinely inclusive single solution which allows all the different chocolate-making traditions in the Community to co-exist within a fair and genuinely harmonised single market. As I have said, my noble friend the Minister has had discussions with colleagues and we remain hopeful that the Council will reach a common position on the proposed directive during our presidency.
Lord Reay: My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this brief debate, both those who were members of the sub-committee and those, such as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, and my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who were not members. It is always uplifting for members of European Community sub-committees to find others who are interested in what they say.
As the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, pointed out, the debate was characterised by a considerable measure of agreement. I felt quite comfortable with the support that we received from some of this House's most notable Euro-sceptics--a situation in which, some years ago, I should not have expected to find myself.
I agreed with almost all the remarks of my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke, and with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said--although it is perhaps worth pointing out that non-cocoa fats are contained in many foods without there being any separate statement of that fact on the package. As regards my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch, he went into areas which I should not want to go into myself, at least in this particular debate.
With regard to the slightly dissentient viewpoint of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, I agree with him that the two types of milk chocolate are in some respects different products, and should, I entirely agree, be free to compete with each other on the market with proper descriptions of their differences for the consumer. Our view was that they should be allowed to compete with each other as different forms of milk chocolate in the same product category. We did not see why British and Irish milk chocolate should not be allowed to be sold as milk chocolate. It seems to us that the problem for British and Irish milk chocolate has derived from the fact that they have been obliged to occupy different product categories in the directive.
I thank the Minister for his reply, which I note is to be treated as the formal response to the report. We shall want to study it carefully. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord repeat his firm stance on milk chocolate, and also more generally in his concluding remarks. I appreciate that there is a need for him to be cautious in his remarks about government strategy in the Council of Ministers. I hope he is right in his belief that a conclusion can be reached within the period of the UK presidency. I commend the report to the House.
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