35. We were surprised that
the United Kingdom's industry representative, the BCCCA, seemed
willing, for the time being at least, to accept the status
quo so far as milk chocolate was concerned, and the trading
disadvantage which United Kingdom milk-chocolate has had to endure
since 1973, which will be maintained under the proposed Directive.
The explanation we received was that they did not wish to put
at risk the achievement of a single market throughout the European
Community for chocolate using non-cocoa fats, for the sake of
the commercially unquantifiable, and perhaps not very great, advantages
of obtaining satisfaction on the issue of single, or neutral,
labelling of milk chocolate (QQ 43-8). It is true, of course,
that, unlike chocolate with a non-cocoa fat content, milk chocolate
with a high milk content is only produced by the United Kingdom
and Ireland, and therefore it is perhaps understandable to be
defeatist about the prospects of securing redress in the Council.
36. In truth we see no good
reason why there need to be two separate products, "milk
chocolate" and "milk chocolate with a high milk content"
(which in the other languages in which the Directive was published
was translated as "household milk chocolate"), and why
both products cannot be allowed to trade under the description
of "milk chocolate". Those who argue for two separate
denominations are attempting to restrict competition within the
Community. It would be perfectly feasible, and in our view desirable,
to have a single denomination for milk chocolate covering both
types produced in the Community today. It is always available
to the manufacturer to advertise the milk content of his product
if he wishes to make that a selling point. It is most important
that it should be the choices of the well-informed consumer which
determine sales and not the policy of the European Community.
37. If there is to continue
to be a separate description for United Kingdom-style milk chocolate,
then at least it should be neutral in all languages. We see no
reason why misleading translations with a discriminatory effect
should be used in the translations of the Directive into other
languages, with such chocolate being sold among groceries, and
not as confectionery. Of course arguments about what is, and what
is not, discriminatory can be interminable, particularly when
they are about descriptions in another language, and it is impossible
to distinguish the negative impact on the sales of United Kingdom-style
milk chocolate of unfair marketing restrictions, from that of
traditional consumer preference. Nevertheless, the industry can
find no other explanation than the use of an inferior sales name
for the negligible sales of the United Kingdom style of milk chocolate
in some other Member States. We see no reason to doubt this judgment.
Moreover, we would make the point that hitherto many United Kingdom
milk chocolate products have been kept out of the markets of eight
Member States by the ban on the import into those countries of
chocolate with a non-cocoa fat content. If and when the new Directive
lifts that ban, United Kingdom milk chocolate will have much greater
access to Community markets. This may highlight still further
the issue of derogatory labelling.
38. We would not like to
go further than the British industry representatives themselves
wish to go and to press for a solution to be found to the problem
of milk-chocolate labelling in the Directive under consideration.
We would like to note, however, that it will remain an unresolved
issue which the Directive itself may make more rather than less
necessary to address in the future.
39. What would be entirely
unacceptable would be a Directive which incorporated the European
Parliament's amendment to remove the present derogation for the
United Kingdom and Ireland, and so require milk chocolate to be
sold in this country as "milk chocolate with a high milk
content", and we urge the Government to maintain their robust
stand on this matter.
40. The Committee considers
that the proposed reform of the EC chocolate Directive raises
important questions to which the attention of the House should
be drawn, and makes this report to the House for debate.
4 This would accommodate both the Continental version,
containing 25 per cent cocoa and 14 per cent milk, and the United
Kingdom and Ireland version, containing 20 per cent cocoa and
20 per cent milk. Back
Notably as expressed in the written answer to Lord Willoughby
de Broke, HL Deb 2 February 1998 WA 85-6. Back