Mr. Pickles: I am sure that the nation is delighted to know about my consumption of baked beans and British sausages. I have to say that there is a tremor of excitement in the Pickles household when the little reward card comes and I can get 20p off a packet of crisps and maybe a jar of Bovril, but I lead a relatively quiet life. The hon. Gentleman would deprive me of such things. I am happy for people to know what I buy in return for the small gifts that I am pleased to receive.
Anyway, I went towards the meat counter and saw that it was festooned with red tractor signs. There were pictures of benign looking farmers in their shirt sleeves smiling down at me, extolling the very best of British products. I receive all sorts of promotional material from Tesco and do not doubt its commitment to the scheme.
An ordinary person, not someone involved in the regulations, would think that British bacon had been raised, slaughtered, cured and packed here. However, I had to spend a serious amount of time looking, almost to the point where I seemed to be loitering. I am sure that the security staff were starting to form a cordon around me because I was picking up pack upon pack. Although I managed to find local bacon close to the red tractor sign, it was surrounded by bacon from all over the world.
I picked up a pack that I was certain was British bacon because it was described as Wiltshire cure. On closer examination, I became convinced that the unfortunate pig that supplied it had not so much as seen a postcard of Wiltshire, let alone visited that fine county.
Tesco offers plenty of choice, but as a consumer I could not easily exercise it. I wanted to buy a product that was produced to a high standard of animal welfare. The lack of honest labelling prevented me from doing so.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): Does my hon. Friend agree that the National Farmers Union sought to introduce and sponsor the red tractor logo because the Government had not given the previous Food Labelling Bill the opportunity to proceed? In the absence of that, a second-bestalbeit welcomescheme had to be introduced by the NFU that was to British farm standards. A product does not have to be British, but simply has to comply with those standards. That is very different from the opportunity presented by the Bill.
Mr. Pickles: My hon. Friend is right. I am pleased that the NFU and the National Pig Association support my endeavour to introduce the Bill. I thank those organisations, FoodTrak and, in particular, the Food and Drink Federation for helping me to draft the Bill, including the changes that we have made to my hon. Friend's Bill.
When we debated the previous Bill, we spent an inordinate amount of time discussing whether it was an anti-European Union measure. As my hon. Friend said at the time, that is absolutely not the case. The Bill has been carefully worded so that that will not happen. The EU law on labelling has a flexible interpretation. We have been offered guidance on that. We are not introducing covert protectionism or retaliation. Obviously, the European court will check whether it conforms with agreements.
Since the previous debate, we have agreed that British beef should be labelled with its country of origin. The European Commission has ruled that that is legal under EU law. In France, the national pork federation and the federation of commerce and distribution have signed an agreement to allow the identification of the origins of pork sold through retail outlets in France. That reasonable measure is initially targeted at fresh meat, but more complex identification of processed products is expected to follow.
In addition, a 3D label in Germany identifies the origin of domestically produced poultry meat, which has to meet detailed quality criteria and feed standards. A former Attorney-General has also given us the benefits of his views:
We want to build on EU law. We should take a lead and be not just at the heart of Europe, but at its cutting edge. That is not simply my view; it is also held by the noble Lord with responsibility for the food chain. Many hon. Members will have been glued to their television sets every night during the recess watching "Newsnight". There was a fascinating discussion on 28 August, and I have a transcript of that interview with Mr. Tim Bennett of the NFU and Lord Whitty. I shall not read out the whole interview because, although riveting at the time, it would be tedious now.
Ms Atherton: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for us in Cornwall, food labelling is particularly important. Cornish clotted cream and Cornish pasties on any table in Cornish households are the subject of much debate. How would the Bill affect those households?
Mr. Pickles: I am certain that Cornish householders keen to support local produce or higher animal welfare standards will be in a better position to do so as a result of the Bill. Various rules exist within the European Union with regard to regional identification. That is a building block that the Bill enhances. However, the Bill is specific about enhancing methods of production and environmental standards and about country of origin.