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Does the Minister have any information about the procurement of British food by, say, French or German public departments? Assuming that it is not good, what are the Government doing to ensure that such departments purchase more and that our rights under the single market are enforced?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, herein lies the problem. When I heard about the supply to Italian schools of Welsh lamb, it became far more difficult to make the case because it cannot be a buy British issue. We have record exports of food and drink from this country and we want them to continue to grow. We cannot do that if we seem to imply that we should buy British. We can say, Buy welfare friendly, so the animals are reared properly. We can encourage contracts for freedom foods, for example, and we can encourage seasonal foods, which are more likely to be local, but it cannot be implied to be buy British. I do not think the noble Lord is implying that. We want to sell British food to schools and hospitals in France, Germany and Italy. It cannot all be local food in every country.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I declare my interest as a small food producer, but not one who is likely to be large enough to supply any government department. I am pleased to hear what the Minister says about encouraging British food but I wonder whether he can help me. I had three reports in one day about Defra not seeming to care about food production any more. It thinks that we can get all our food from abroad and it does not matter whether farmers know how to farm or to produce food in this country. It would be enormously helpful if there be a little more knowledge within Defra.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Countess is entitled to make her allegation but, bearing in mind what I have said about what Defra is doing, it borders on the preposterous. We are going around the country holding national conferences; we are publishing guides for farmers to help them supply the public sector; we are funding projects in the English regions to develop the capacity of small producers; we are funding English farming and food partnerships to develop a share-and-supply programme to encourage and help farmers and food producers to co-operate; we are about to put more electronic adverts on to the
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, many in the House will know that the Minister is fully committed to this policy. I would like to ask him about the attitude of his colleagues in the Government. What obstacles has the Minister found across government? Has the policy been discussed in Cabinet? At the NFU centenary dinner the Prime Minister revealed himself as a country boy at heart. What has he done to back the Minister in this policy?
Lord Rooker: Eaten more British meat, my Lords; he is one of the members of the Cabinet who can do that. He has convinced me that he is pushing for the meat industry. As I said, there are some gaps and there are some progress movesI have mentioned the MoD. One area where we have some concernit is incredibly difficultis where, for example, if one looks at the centre of the health department and then one looks at all the health trusts, which are independent procurers, one finds that there is less of an interest. I am about to have discussions with health Ministers about that, but it comes down to the local trust level. We have discovered figures which show that only about 5 per cent of NHS trusts take this issue seriously. That is quite unacceptable. We want good quality, seasonal, locally produced food in our hospitals. It is not necessarily the fewest pennies at the end of the price that give you good value. That is why all of what we are doing is fully compatible with EU rules and auditing rules for value for money.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, what is the role of the European regulation? If he does not have that information, perhaps he could write to us. Is there an inhibition by law or by direction from the European Union against labelling things as British, or from Britain or the UK?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, labelling rules for food are an EU competency; that is not the issue. Defra has been able to work with those who make the contracts to get model, legally watertight contracts so that the suppliers can request, for example, food produced in animal-welfare-friendly conditions. We can say, without fear or favour, that our records are better than anywhere else in Europe. If people then want to make it a contractual obligation to have the RSPCAs Freedom Food designation, they are legally entitled to do so.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, the Prime Minister discussed Tibet at length with Chinese Premier Wen on 19 March. He expressed his ongoing concern at the situation and urged restraint and a return to substantive dialogue to resolve underlying issues. We
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Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Foreign Secretary call in the Chinese ambassador and ask him to relay to his Government the extreme concern that the British people feel about the level of violence being inflicted on Tibetan civilians, including at least 100 dead, and the denial of access to journalists, diplomats and human rights observers? Further, what is the Governments response to the request that has been made by the Dalai Lama for an international investigation of the situation in Tibet? Will they press that with the Chinese authorities when they speak to them?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord knows that in a way we have done better than calling in the ambassador in that the Prime Minister has spoken to his counterpart and made exactly those points on the need for dialogue and restraint and the need to pull back from violence. Equally, we have made it clear that we believe that the Dalai Lamas commitment to seeking autonomy but not independence and his appeal to Tibetans not to resort to violence create a situation that we hope the Chinese will respond to positively.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, while it is not totally clear what is going on in Tibetthere is more than one side to the storywill the Minister accept that we on this side of the House are very glad that the Prime Minister has spoken to the Chinese Premier and that he is meeting the Dalai Lama, as are my colleagues Mr Cameron and Mr Hague, as well as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales? Will he attempt, with his considerable international skill, to convey to the Chinese officials, whose achievements in many ways we respect enormously, that the Dalai Lama has always sought a moderate, compromising approach in dealing with Beijing and that treating him as the enemy and setting him up as a sort of demon may not be the wisest course for the people of Beijing, who obviously want a peaceful and non-violent solution to what is clearly a difficult situation?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point. I think that everyone in the House would affirm that the Dalai Lama is a remarkable spiritual leader of his people and a remarkable voice for moderation and conscience in the world. Nevertheless, in China he has been broadly vilified. Across the internet you see ordinary Chinese people speaking against both the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. Some of the language used by the Chinese leadership is equally disappointing. One hopes that the Chinese can pull back from this and recognise that in the Dalai Lama they have a partner for peace.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, the Minister stressed today, as he did yesterday, the concept of autonomy within China, but when I met the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile in Dharamsala last year, they impressed on me how painfully slow
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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord speaks of exactly the kind of messages that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others of us will wish to impress on the Chinese. Talks have not produced results. Tremendous economic support has been given to Tibet by Beijing, but it has not led to the political dialogue that one would want to see. I say again that the Chinese are looking a gift horse in the mouth; they are remarkably lucky to have a partner such as the Dalai Lama.
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I not sure that conflating the issue of Taiwan with that of Tibet would be helpful or constructive. The key point is that the Dalai Lama has indicated that he is seeking autonomy, which should give the Chinese authorities comfort that there is a solution consistent with their view that Tibet is part of China.
Lord Soley: My Lords, the Chinese greatly emphasise the rule of law, and we are pleased that they do so, but can the Government remind them that the rule of law implies that security forces can be held to account if they exceed their powers? Will they also remind them that allowing the media into the area would help them enormously in the long run and that facilitating channels of communication with the Dalai Lama, which we, too, could help with, might be much more beneficial to them than our thinking that China is still the tyranny that it was 30 or 40 years ago?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend is correct that we have to impress on the Chinese that they must allow the international media to return to Tibet. There seems to be no British journalist remaining in Lhasa; the last ones visa or permission to travel there expired just yesterday. We have still not been able to send a British diplomat there. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to the different reports about the situation. That remains true. We are uncertain about the level of human rights violations or violence that may have occurred. We need to establish the facts.
More broadly, I certainly endorse what my noble friend said. As I said in this House yesterday, China has gone through an extraordinary transformation, which we should all praise and be aware of. It has entered the world community as a responsible and powerful member. It is in Chinas interest not to allow the issue of Tibet to damage the new stature that it properly enjoys.
Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Baroness Trumpington set down for today be limited to three and a half hours and that in the name of Lord Fowler to one and a half hours.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, a date for this order was agreed through the usual channels more than a week ago. It has taken an awfully long time for the noble Baroness the Leader of the House to move this Motion.
Moved, That the draft orders and regulations be referred to a Grand Committee. 6th report from the Regulatory Reform Committee,12th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 14th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 15th report from the Merits Committee.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, since the noble Baroness the Lord President has moved all four Motions en bloc, perhaps I could talk to the first one. This was agreed through the usual channels to be set down for next Tuesday for discussion in Grand Committee in the Moses Room, but it seems to have taken a phenomenally long time for the Motion to get on to the Order Paper. It is not really for the convenience of the House that such short notice should be given for such an important order, given that we are away for a long weekend. I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could tell me why that is.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, my understanding is that we try to table Motions as speedily as possible. There are peaks and troughs in terms of the numbers of statutory instruments that are laid before the House, but I shall look at the specifics of what the noble Lord has said and get back to him.
Lord Elton: My Lords, before the noble Baroness the Lord President replies to that remark, which of course I heartily endorse, will the fourth Motion be the constitutional renewal order? If that is the case, could she tell the House a bit more about what is intended in the Constitutional Renewal Bill and whether there is a relationship between this order and the joint cross-party group on the future of this House? Could she give us some idea of the timing
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am about to move the Motion to which I think the noble Lord would like to speak. I am sorry, but there seems to be deep confusion on the opposition Benches as to what I am moving, for which I apologise if I am at all responsiblealthough I fear that I am not. We are debating the four Motions for referral of statutory instruments to the Grand Committee. Once we have agreed that, we shall come on to the next Motion.
Moved, That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on any draft Constitutional Renewal Bill presented to both Houses by a Minister of the Crown.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I would be grateful if the noble Lord would repeat it because, although I was paying attention, I was far too focused on the fact that it was to the wrong Motion.
Lord Elton: My Lords, as far as I can remember, I asked her whether she could elaborate a bit on her Motion to explain the nature of the Constitutional Renewal Bill and the relationship between this proposal and the programme of work with the joint cross-party committee examining the future of this House.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, there is no relationship between what is in the Constitutional Renewal Bill and the work of the Joint Committee looking at the future of the House. The Bill is not about reform of the Housethat much I can say. What we propose, which I believe is right and proper, is that there should be a Joint Committee between the two Houses to consider the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. We shall make that proposal to the Commons, as would be the usual case; the Commons will come back to us, proposing membership, then we will propose membershipand off the committee will go.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the Bill will be published very shortly and the noble Lord will have the opportunity to look through the provisions. I refer the noble Lord back to the statements made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in the early part of his premiership, when he talked about the governance of Britain issues. The noble Lord will find in the discussions that we had then some of the issues that may well come forward in such a Bill.
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