17 May 2002

And shes taken to task by Celts

MARGARET Beckett, DEFRA secretary, has been accused of ignoring the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when it comes to formulating UK agricultural policy.

Jim Walker, president of NFU Scotland, told the House of Lords select committee on the constitution on Wednesday that Mrs Beckett was making a mockery of devolution by failing to consult on UK policy issues.

"Mrs Beckett should designate a deputy to represent England in discussions with ministers from the devolved regions," Mr Walker suggested. "She could then co-ordinate the UKs negotiating position rather than trying to be the sole creator of it."

As well as strained relationships between DEFRA civil servants and their counterparts in Edinburgh, Mr Walker highlighted the problems caused by the lack of any formal structure for negotiation or between the Scottish Executive and the EU. &#42

"Whats needed is a formal structure of negotiation and dialogue between Scotland and the EU.

"Instead, what we have is a secretary of state making statements setting out the UKs negotiating position on the mid-term review of the CAP without even consulting the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland ministers."