16 May 2001
Abolition of MAFF – details emerge

By FWi staff

MORE details have emerged of Labours manifesto pledge to replace the Ministry of Agriculture with a Department of Rural Affairs.

The manifesto devotes two pages to rural Britain, saying: “Labour is committed to support our countryside and the people who live and work in it.”

The document adds: “We are committed to create a new department to lead renewal in rural areas – a Department for Rural Affairs.”

It continues: “We will set up an independent commission to advise on how we create a sustainable, competitive and diverse farming and food sector.”

This sector will operate within a “thriving rural economy which advances environmental, health and animal welfare goals,” says the manifesto.

An adviser to agriculture minister Nick Brown said the Labour Party was keen to see better links between farming and the wider rural economy.

“It has been something Mr Brown has been wanting to do for some time and follows calls from a number of organisations for joined-up government,” he said.

The new department would improve relations across the food chain and bring a more co-ordinated approach to environmental policy, added the adviser.

The changeover was consistent with European Union policy and would take place soon into the next term of the new administration, he said.

The move follows steps taken by the devolved Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations to merge the agricultural and rural functions of government.

A spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats said it was gratifying that Labour was running with what had been a LibDem policy for some time.

The LibDems included a formal pledge to set up Department of Rural Affiars in its Roots to Prosperity document released in September last year, she said.

“We will have to see exactly how they would do it. The whole point of doing would be to make substantial changes,” she added.

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