03 March 1998
Agriculture ministry relaunch delayed

THE renaming and relaunching of the Ministry of Agriculture has been delayed until the summer, according to theFinancial Times.

The postponement has refuelled speculation it will be reincarnated as a department of rural affairs.

It was due to be relaunched earlier this year but it is waiting for the final seal of approval from Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Speculation is rife the Prime Minister will move agriculture minister Dr Jack Cunningham by summer. Dr Cunningham has been the target of hostility from farmers, but he could be rewarded with a promotion for what Blair believes to have been a job well done in difficult circumstances.

The Financial Times leader column comments that the Ministry of Agriculture should be disbanded when it loses responsibility for food safety next year.

Any special consideration for the countryside must be clearly distinguished from the question of farm incomes, it says.

It suggests such issues should remain within the remit of the Department of Environment.

The leader comments on the impact of Sundays Countryside March in central London.

The Scotsman reports that the Government has poured cold water on the suggestion that it was on the verge of creating a new department to deal with countryside issues.

Dr Cunningham said on Panorama last night that British farmers facing financial hardship could not win public and political sympathy with demands for money to bale them out.

He said while the government struggled to fund schools and hospitals, finding extra cash for farmers was not realistic.

He expected there to be fewer farmers in the future and that reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was inevitable.

The Guardian reports that Britains farmers must be quietly happy about the impact of the march which extracted concessions from ministers even before it reached London.

The Daily Telegraph carries a commemorative supplement on The Countryside March

  • Financial Times 03/03/98 page 23 (Editorial Comment), page 24

  • The Scotsman 03/03/98 page 2

  • The Guardian 03/03/98 page 15 (Leader)

  • The Daily Telegraph 03/03/98 page I-IV (supplement)