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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, when my noble friend comes to examine the second supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will she also consider whether it might be possible for the Luxembourg Court not just to fine the 14 other countries but to fine the Commission itself?
Lord Richard: My Lords, can the Minister confirm the position as I understand it, which is that there may be a theoretical argument which says that such a ban on non-food products might be imposed whereas in fact for the past 40 years the Community has had the common sense not to do that?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that is absolutely right. If substances are dangerous, such as those which are subject to Regulation 2455/92 which relates to hazardous chemicals, member states must implement the importing country's decisions. However, that does not usually relate to products that are manufactured or used within the Community. It usually applies where those substances pass from a third country, through a Community country, and onward. That is why we need to take some care in making the sort of comments that are often made in relation to legislation to which we can fully sign up because it is in the interests of the protection of the health and safety of our people as well as of those in 14 other member states.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): My Lords, the proceedings between Clydesdale District Council and Mr. Errington were concluded on 28th February 1996. The sheriff found in favour of Mr. Errington and awarded costs to him for the value of his cheese and expenses from 14th February 1995 to be met by Clydesdale District Council. On 1st July 1996 I met Mr. Errington and the new director of public protection services at South Lanarkshire Council, the successor
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Is he aware of how much I personally appreciate the courtesy and attention with which he has listened to representations made on behalf of Mr. Errington and the trouble that he has taken to visit Mr. Errington at his farm to inquire into what happened? That was most unusual and I should like my noble friend to realise that my thanks on this occasion are not merely formal. He has done marvellously well.
However, there is just one little point that I should like to add. I am sure that my noble friend has done all that he can to urge Clydesdale District Council to pay the huge sum of costs awarded against it by the sheriff. Does my noble friend know whether the council has yet paid those costs?
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's kind remarks. Given my noble friend's previous track record, I had imagined that there might well be a sting in the tail. Perhaps I may commend the energy with which my noble friend has brought this matter to the attention of Ministers and the House. All who have been involved in the case are agreed that lessons have been learned and that much good will come of that unfortunate episode.
My noble friend asked specifically about costs. Mr. Errington has received payment with regard to the judicial review and the appeal. With regard to legal and witness fees in respect of the sheriff court hearing which commenced on 14th August, the sum involved has yet to be settled, but the hearing date has been settled and the sheriff intends to award Mr. Errington his costs. I remind the House that Mr. Errington makes a very fine product which I commend to all those who like blue cheese.
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, perhaps I may associate myself with the grateful thanks which the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, has expressed to the Minister for the trouble that he has taken. Not only were the noble Earl's actions correct, but he went even further on this occasion than he need have done. We are all glad that the matter now seems to have been resolved. I do not think that I have ever read as much background material on any Question as on this.
Will the Minister consider one or two other points? I understand that the original complaint came from the local authority in Edinburgh and that the South Lanarkshire people had to examine it. There was then an investigation by the Scottish Agricultural College which said that the product could be dangerous, but another college, the Analytical Service Centre in Motherwell, gave it the "all clear". What worries me now is how we can reassure the public that our food hygiene practices are safe. Was this episode a one-off or does it indicate that procedures need to be tightened up? I wonder, for instance, whether we should have a government analyst to supervise such matters.
Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, what costs have so far been incurred in the case by the complainant and by the local authority? Can the noble Earl give us some idea of the extent of the liability which will fall to be met by the ratepayers of Strathclyde Regional Council?
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, details of many of the costs arising from the case are not in the public domain. I believe that Mr. Errington has not released information on the costs which he has already been paid for the judicial review and the appeal. I told the House a little earlier that the costs associated with the sheriff court have still to be finalised, but they will be paid to Mr. Errington. Costs have been awarded against Clydesdale District Council, which is now South Lanarkshire Council.