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Trade Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Constitutional and Political Reform) 9:30 pm, 23rd January 2019

My Lords, I am a signatory to this new clause and I am delighted to endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, has already said. By way of background, I was responsible for my party’s policy when some of these issues were addressed in the other place when I was responsible for agriculture, food and drink. I also represented a Cornish constituency and I shall come back to that in a moment.

It is very dear to my heart, as I know it is to the Government’s Chief Whip, that we should recognise the particular contribution of the agriculture industry in this country and that we should recognise that it is going to go through some very difficult times in the near future if what is projected comes to pass. In those circumstances, it is extremely important to address the issues to which the noble Lord has already referred.

Protected geographical status was introduced throughout the EU in 1993, when I had that responsibility in the Commons. I was especially delighted when the schemes were updated under Regulation 1151/2012 during the coalition Government. This has been a great success by Ministers of all three major parties—we should recognise that. It is instructive to see how influential UK Ministers have been on an issue such as this when they have played a full part in the EU. It has also been a very interesting example of how the EU has provided essential trading encouragement and protection for uniquely significant food and drinks products from all parts of the United Kingdom.

This is not nostalgic parochialism, as I think the noble Lord has emphasised. It has real economic marketing benefits, as well as protecting our producers from cut-price and inferior competitors. The UK could never have achieved anything like this benefit without the support of our European partners.

There are 65 products with protected status under this scheme in the UK. They are designated to protect the reputation of regional products, to promote traditional and agricultural activity and to eliminate non-genuine products of inferior or different character that may mislead consumers—I will come back to that point. Obviously, I will not go through all 65 products at this time of night, but I will take one or two examples: the traditionally-farmed Gloucester Old Spot pork, which I know extremely well because I have neighbours who produce just that, introduced by the coalition in 2010, West Country lamb and beef, Dorset Blue cheese, Single Gloucestershire cheese and Export Jersey Blue. There were very significant improvements to the marketing opportunities for those products, but also, much more generally, for West Country farmhouse cheddar, Cornish sardines—again, dear to my heart—and Fal oysters in 2013.

However, we have to be very careful about the use of these descriptions. As the noble Lord said, one of the particular characters is protected geographical indication. It happens that in my constituency we had one of the best vineyards in the whole of the United Kingdom, the Camel Valley vineyard. That is not in England, it is in Cornwall—and as all Members will know, Cornwall is not part of England, it is not an English county. I have a particular attraction to the wines from that vineyard, not just because it was local to my constituency but because one of the partners of that extremely enterprising vineyard was Annie Lindo, who stood for the Labour Party against me in a general election. She did not win, but the Guardian said that the wake would be one of the best in the country—and it certainly was. The vineyard now produces an excellent rosé as well as sparkling wine.

Cornish clotted cream was another big issue—and I will come to another very important dish in a moment. I remind the House that the difference between Cornish and Devon clotted cream is that Cornish clotted cream is so good that you must have it on top of the jam, while in Devon you can put the jam on top—otherwise, you do not get enough.

Cornish pasties were another big issue. My noble friend the then honourable Member for Truro will recall that it was on St Piran’s Day, I think, that one of our coalition colleague Ministers announced that the Cornish pasty was to be protected. That is a classic example, because of course the recipe for a Cornish pasty is quite precise. It is not permitted to add carrots or peas, let alone minced beef or lamb; it must be skirt of beef. I have had pasties in different parts of the world. Indeed, a part of Lithuania produces its own pasty, originating in the Middle East—but it is not a Cornish pasty. This is a serious issue. I ask noble Lords to recognise that this can be of huge importance to not just small enterprises but substantial ones, too.