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12.26 pm

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): I have a great passion for food and I welcome the Bill. This is a timely debate. I came to the House today to discuss patents legislation, but something funny happened on the way to the forum.

I am afraid that we might conclude from this debate that the Bill represents the solution to the plight of farmers. I have met farmers in my constituency and members of the National Farmers Union who are worried about the marketing of their produce and about mislabelling in supermarkets and shops. They have a passion for the Bill and want food produced in Britain to be clearly marked as such. In Committee, we shall have to discuss the problems that will arise in the process.

There are problems with defining where a product comes from. For example, a pork product may have been bred in Shropshire, fattened in France, slaughtered in Holland, processed in Belgium and sold back to the UK. How would such a product be defined?

Mr. Pickles: I am happy to explain that. Had the hon. Gentleman not missed the first two hours of the debate, he would have heard me deal with it earlier. We also heard an interesting speech by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who dealt precisely with that matter, so I suggest that the hon. Gentleman checks Hansard. Frankly, I am embarrassed to have to respond to somebody who did not turn up for the debate and who has not apologised to me or the House for missing it. Labour Members missed a few minutes of my speech because of the collapse of business and were profuse in their apologies. I very much regret the hon. Gentleman's discourtesy to both me and the House for going into matters about which, had he been more diligent in his duties, he would have known something.

Richard Younger-Ross: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not being here earlier, but I was having to apologise to a constituent who came here from Devon to listen to the Patents Bill debate. He had been involved in talks with the promoter of that Bill.

Mr. Dismore: I fully take the hon. Gentleman's point, but I am surprised that the Liberal Democrat Benches have remained empty for most of the debate. Although I understand his reason for being absent, it would surely have been appropriate for a Liberal Democrat colleague to be present to tell him what went on.

Richard Younger-Ross: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I have been here for much of the

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debate, and I apologise for not being able to be here for its beginning. I have a passion for food and, despite the point scoring, the issues raised are pertinent. I will read Hansard with interest tomorrow to discover a few answers.

It is important that we do not go away with the idea that labelling is the answer to all farmers' problems. If we do, we shall let the Government off the hook. Many issues relating to education and the cost of products must be resolved. We need a policy for the way in which supermarkets buy from farmers. Whether it is through the promotion of co-operatives or whatever, we should enable farmers to strengthen their arm when they deal with supermarkets. Despite the fact that I have heard people outside say that labelling can provide the solution, the answer is not as simple as they might think.

Regional food is very important. When I was on holiday in Yorkshire, I was lucky enough to be able to go to a food festival in York. It was exceedingly good. There was a stand that sold bacon from Gloucestershire old spot pigs, and I had never had the opportunity to try it before. It was sweet, succulent and excellent. The fact that such products are being sold means that there is greater interest in food, by and large among the chattering classes.

Mr. Dismore: The hon. Gentleman has highlighted some of the problems with the Bill. He spoke about Gloucestershire old spot pigs, but were they raised in Yorkshire? If they were, would not the bacon have been York ham?

Richard Younger-Ross: I did not have the opportunity to talk to the pig at the time, so I cannot say where it came from. It was not marked or labelled. Old spot is a breed, so it is misleading to go down that line. It was succulent bacon and the producers should be proud of the product. I hope that more people have an opportunity to diversify and sell quality products.

I was also pleased that a company from my constituency, Roccombe Dairies, was represented at the festival. It makes excellent organic ice cream—it is better than Phish—and it has been very successful. It has been sold in the precincts of the Palace.

The Bill and the extra interest in food will help us deal with some of the problems. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) that we will be able to consider the issues further in Committee and that that will have positive consequences. However, we should not claim that the Bill will be the answer. Hon. Members on both sides of the House need to put more pressure on the Government so that they deal with the problems of the costs that farmers face and consider other ways of aiding them. That will ensure that the food industry in this country is profitable and long standing.

12.32 pm

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): I apologise for not having been able to be here for the whole debate. I was chairing a fascinating debate among young people in Committee Room 10—almost on a par with the quality of debate in the Chamber. I am glad that some of those who debated so effectively upstairs are watching this debate and seeing what parliamentarians get up to on their behalf.

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I have a series of problems with the Bill, not least because it does not address the real issues. Food labelling is a problem and there is not enough information on the foodstuffs that one comes across. Like the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), I shop in Tesco. In the Rhondda, we do not have any other major supermarket chains apart from the Pioneer stores in Treorchy and Porth. They are not open at 11 pm, which is when I tend to get home on Thursday evenings and do my shopping. However, this weekend, I obviously wanted to stay here for this important debate, so I do not know when I will get to the supermarket. On the whole, it is Tesco for me.

I am troubled by the amount of information that supermarkets can garner about the shopping, eating and even clothing habits of their customers through the reward card system. There is an issue of civil liberties there, but I do not want to stray into a matter that is of no relevance to the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman has been circling the Bill. It would be to the advantage of the House if he would now home in on it.

Mr. Bryant: Thank you for your invitation to attack the Bill in a more vulture-like way, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which I shall now seek to do.

The information that my constituents look for when they buy food is, first, the sell-by date. A few days before the general election, I visited a shop just outside my constituency. I was taken to the front and shown a large display that boldly announced, "Out of date crisps—22p". Why a shop should boldly declare that the crisps were out of date, I do not know. There is still a market in food that has passed its sell-by date, and the Government need to look into it. Everyone has welcomed the advent of marking products with sell-by dates, but we need to look into it more closely. I have regularly seen in supermarkets in south Wales products that have had their sell-by date deleted and another put on top.

My constituents also want to know, as the Bill acknowledges, what is inside the products that they buy. However, I do not think that their primary interest is where the eggs, butter, flour and salt in their tarte au citron comes from. They do not want someone in an obscure bureaucratic office to analyse whether the lemon tart is made according to Jamie Oliver's recipe, which requires 18 lemons, constituting 25 per cent. by weight of the tart, or to that of the two fat ladies—who are now singular—which involves only eight lemons, constituting less than 25 per cent. by weight. [Interruption.] Opposition Members laugh, but the issue of the major ingredient is a significant problem.

Mr. George Osborne: The reason why we were chuckling is that the hon. Gentleman said that the two fat ladies were now singular. That is because one of them has died, I believe.

Mr. Bryant: I did not know that Opposition Members could be so cavalier as to laugh at the death of one of the two fat ladies. I was thoroughly aware that one of them had died. That still sounds cavalier, but the point is made.

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An issue that is significant to my constituents is the nationality of the food that they buy. At least one other hon. Member in the Chamber will have been delighted to notice that in recent years there has been a resurgence of Welsh produce across the whole country. Indeed, on a recent visit to Madrid, I was delighted to see products on which a little red dragon showed that kettle chips, lamb or other produce were from Wales, and that they were marketed as such. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar want me to give way?

Mr. Pickles: No, I am just gesticulating.

Mr. Bryant: I am glad that it is just gesticulation. The marketing of Welsh produce is of significant benefit to Welsh farmers and businesses.

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