Lords questioned on procurement policy

The government faced a cross-party attack regarding its pork procurement policies in a recent House of Lords debate.

Speaking earlier this month, Labour peer Lord Hoyle questioned the government about the amount of British pork and bacon used by public sector departments and asked why the Lords' restaurants did not "follow the example of the Commons in using only British bacon".

Defra minister Lord Hunt replied that the Lords' "policy of not serving British bacon for breakfast" was down to a "deadly combination of price and competition between the Lords' restaurant and the Commons Strangers' café for custom in the morning."

He pointed out that the public procurement sector of British pork is improving, with a November report on food used by government departments, hospitals and prisons showing that the overall use of UK-produced bacon is up from 25% to 29% and pork up from 65% to 74%.

Conservative peer Lord Taylor stepped in to ask what percentage of bacon and ham used by Defra was British and how any government department can "justify buying meat from sources with lesser welfare standards than our own?"

Lord Hunt said that, according to the latest figures, Defra uses 75% British bacon. He acknowledged that British farmers faced a disadvantage as a result of its high welfare standards, but emphasised, "The EU directive, which comes into place in 2013, will level that up to an extent."

A third peer then took up the pig industry cause, saying that 2013 is too long to wait for harmonisation of animal standards through "the EU's so-called single market". Lord Tylor, a Liberal Democrat peer, went on to question whether the government would press for "a more rapid movement in that direction".

Lord Hunt replied that the government had pushed for the new provisions to come into effect earlier than 2013, but negotiations in Europe were difficult. "We will continue to press for the highest welfare standards in Europe and for a level playing field between the rest of Europe and the UK," he said.