Shoppers must be given information to help them when making purchases, former health secretary Andrew Lansley said amid concerns over kosher and halal meat labelling.
Mr Lansley said the Consumer Rights Bill, which returns before the Commons next week, could allow MPs to draw attention to issues of retailers not informing people about religious customs associated with slaughtering animals.
Conservative Philip Davies (Shipley) reminded the Commons that his attempt to introduce a Bill for compulsory labelling of halal and kosher meat at the point of sale was defeated by three votes two years ago.
He told Commons Leader Mr Lansley: “(It was) voted down largely by the political brigade on the Labour benches.
“As usual I was ahead of my time because you will appreciate there is widespread concern about the use of halal and kosher meat that is not labelled amongst retailers.
“Can you arrange for the Environment Secretary (Owen Paterson) to come to this House to explain what this Government is doing to make sure that consumers can make an informed choice when they are making their purchases?”
Mr Lansley replied: “I do recall your private member’s bill and indeed you have correctly anticipated what clearly is a continuing, emerging debate.
“I will, if I may, talk to (Defra) but … I think you may find an opportunity in the first day on report of the Consumer Rights Bill to draw attention to these issues because that is very much about something I’m sure we all believe in, which is giving consumers not only rights but information on which they can base their purchasing decisions.”
Tory Philip Hollobone (Kettering) supported Mr Davies’s comments, telling Mr Lansley during business questions: “My constituents in Kettering will be horrified to read reports in today’s papers that major high street supermarkets are selling halal and kosher meat without it being labelled as such.
“While recognising that certain faith groups require halal or kosher meat, surely it’s perfectly reasonable we all know what we’re buying.
“If the Consumer Rights Bill is the right vehicle to address this problem, can we look forward to a Government clause in that Bill to make sure that the meat we buy is labelled halal or kosher if it is?”
Mr Lansley replied: “The point you make is not an unreasonable one in relation to the desirability of consumers knowing what they’re buying, and that is a responsibility on producers and retailers to make that happen.”
He said he could not give Mr Hollobone “any comfort” that there is any plan for a Government amendment, adding: “I do hope that it will generally be the case that where consumers have an expectation it should be met by producers and retailers, it shouldn’t have to be the subject of Government legislation in order for that to be the case.”
Mr Lansley went on: “Legislation is not the answer to all problems.”