My noble friend Lord Caithness also asked about mandatory written contracts. The Government are sympathetic to the concerns that he referred to in the context of interprofessional agreements. The issue, as I understand it, is not so much about what is in the Commission’s proposals but about what might be introduced in the detailed rules that will follow. While wishing to see normal competition principles apply as far as possible, the Government are also mindful of the need not to unbalance the legal framework governing the relationship between growers and processors. When it comes to negotiations on the Commission’s detailed rules in due course, the Committee may be assured that we will consult all interested parties to identify whether any issues arise in practice.

My noble friend Lady Parminter asked whether the Government have any plans to look at the role that fiscal incentives can play in shaping positive food choices. We keep all evidence on the impact of taxation on promoting healthier food choices under review. We believe that the voluntary action that we have put in place through the public health responsibility deal is delivering results; 33 companies have signed up to pledge to help the population reduce their calorie consumption. I argue that this is the right way forward, but I emphasise that we are not complacent and we are clear that this is something for all food businesses, not just some. If we do not get continued progress, we will have to consider alternative approaches.

In conclusion, there is much that the Government and the committee can agree upon, including support for genuine CAP reform that removes distortions from the market and delivers real benefit to consumers and producers, a desire to see strong, competitive beet processing and cane refining industries in the United Kingdom and appropriate safeguards for producers, both in the UK and in developing countries. We will continue to make the case for that vision in EU and other international negotiations. The committee’s continued interest and contribution to the debate would be most welcome.

7.07 pm

Lord Carter of Coles: I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. We have had an interesting debate that, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said, has come at a crucial time. The critical thing about these reports is to be able to make the point while the negotiations are taking place.

We have all sensed the great loss that we all felt because the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, could not contribute, and in this debate her incisiveness and her fact-packed contribution brought evidence of that. In my experience the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, always seems to have the knack of zeroing in on a key issue and then helping us along a little with a reminiscence of somewhere such as Romania, which is always very much appreciated. The balanced view of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, of the needs of consumers

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in terms of price but also in terms of welfare and health was a perfectly fine contribution to this debate. I very much welcome the intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, who made his point so strongly.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, for setting out the views of the Government. It is nice that we are all in so much agreement on what needs to be done, and we appreciate how difficult it is for the Government to exercise their point of view in these very difficult negotiations. I speak for us all in saying that we are grateful for the fulsome apology that he was able to make on the late response.

We should hope that the Government are now successful in their attempts to work with EU partners to renegotiate the sugar terms. Clearly, the position of the French and Germans—the great barons of the industry, if you like—makes it very difficult, and we should offer every support that we can to ensure that the next seven years, in terms of everything that we want to see happen, are somewhat more productive than the previous seven.

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Turning to my chairmanship of sub-committee D, I have done this for the past four Sessions. For me, at least, it has been a delight. We have had some really focused and productive times, and generally I believe that they have been happy. That has been a hallmark of our committee. That has been wholly due to the committee’s members, and we have been extraordinarily fortunate in the composition of our committee. I also record our thanks to our successive clerks: Paul Bristow, Kate Meanwell and Aaron Speer. Running through it, we have been fortunate to have the same golden thread of our researcher, Alistair Dillon, who has been absolutely tremendous.

A further delight to me is that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, has taken over as the chair of the committee. I have no doubt that it will be as fulfilling for her as it has been for me. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 7.10 pm.