The occasion was a reception for Caravan, the trade's charity of which he is patron. And I can report the honourable Lord was in fine form. Mind you, so was Gavin Neath, who is chief executive of Unilever Bestfoods, and vice-president of the charity. Thanking Lord MacLaurin for the loan of the palace's "modern dining facilities", Neath explained that he was standing in for Caravan president Robin Whitbread (who was with an intrepid band of golfers raising money for the charity in Spain). "Think of me as a poor man's Robin Whitbread," said Neath. "As a small shareholder in Sainsbury and a close reader of the paragraph on director's emoluments in their annual report I can assure you I am a very poor man's Robin Whitbread." My visit to the House of Lords was a joy ­ particularly when compared to my brief trip across the channel earlier in the week. The visit confirmed that the dawn of the euro has brought a new spirit of peace and goodwill among members of the eurozone, but not beyond. Parisian taxi drivers berated me for the UK's decision to opt out of the new currency. "It is not about being less French but more European. You British will see sense," thundered one taxi driver named Bruno. This lack of goodwill also extends to our cuisine. When asked if British beef was on the menu at a restaurant, the waiter gave an incredulous look, followed by a snort of disdain. "Definitely not," he said. {{COUNTERPOINT }}